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THE GREAT BOER WAR. Arthur Conan Doyle. 

LIFE OF GLADSTONE. Herbert W. Paul. 

REMINISCENCES. Sir Henry Hawkins. 






G. W. E. Russell. 






ASTRONOMY FOR AMATEURS. Camille Flammarion. 
THE PATH TO ROME. Hilaire Belloc. 



SIR WALTER SCOTT. Mrs. Hughes of Uffington. 


SPURGEON'S SERMONS. Sir W. Robertson Nicoll, LL.D. 
MY CONFIDENCES. Frederick Locker-Lampson. 

SIR FRANK LOCKWOOD. Augustine Birrell. 



THE RING AND THE BOOK. Robert Browning. 

THE ALPS FROM END TO END. Sir IV. Martin Conway. 

IN INDIA. G. W. Steevens. 



HAVELOCK'S MARCH. /. W. Sherer. 

UP FROM SLAVERY. Booker Washington. 


Others to folloiv. 

Great Englishmen 

of the 

Sixteenth Century 



Hon. D.Litt., Oxford; Hon. LL.D., Glasgow; Hon. Litt.D. 

Victoria University, Manchester; Corresponding Member of the 

Massachusetts Historical Society ; Editor of the 

' Dictionary of National Biography ; ' Author 

of 'A Life of William Shakespeare,' and 

' Queen Victoria : A Biography ' 




11*-) ; ;-" 



THE call for a new edition of this work has given me 
the opportunity of correcting a few errors, but I have 
made no change of importance, and have confined 
myself to removing inaccuracies of fact or expression. 
Since these pages were written, I have devoted 
much time to the study of one of the topics which 
here finds occasional mention, namely, the revelation 
of the New World of America to Tudor England, 
and the relations subsisting between the two territories 
through the reign of Elizabeth. More minute research 
in these directions than I had undertaken when I 
penned this volume, has led me to modify some earlier 
conceptions of the precise influences, exerted by the 
first settlement of America, on the development of the 
English Renaissance. It would disturb the balance 
of this book were I to amplify its references to the 
New World. But I venture to refer any reader who 
cares to know the latest results of my investigation 
into the bearings of the Discovery of America on the 
history of English and European thought and action 
during the sixteenth century to the four articles from 
my pen, entitled The Call of the West, which have 
lately appeared in Scribner's Magazine (New York), 
and are now in process of revision and expansion for 
publication in an independent volume. 




THE contents of this volume are based on a series of 
eight lectures which I delivered, by invitation of the 
Trustee, at the Lowell Institute, Boston, in the spring 
of last year. I paid a first visit to America for the 
purpose of fulfilling that engagement. My reception 
was in all ways of the pleasantest, and I feel especially 
grateful to my Boston audience for the considerate 
attention which they extended to me. 

In preparing the lectures for the press I have adhered 
to the main lines which I followed in their delivery. 
But I have judged it necessary to make sweeping altera 
tions in form and detail. I have introduced much 
information which was scarcely fitted for oral treatment. 
I have endeavoured to present more coherently and more 
exhaustively the leading achievements of the Renaissance 
in England than was possible in the time at the disposal 
of a lecturer. I have tried, however, to keep in view 
the requirements of those to whom the lectures were 
originally addressed. Though I have embodied in my 
revision the fruits of some original research, I have not 
overloaded my pages with recondite references. My 
chief aim has been to interest the cultivated reader of 
general intelligence rather than the expert. 

The opening lecture of my course at Boston surveyed 
in general terms the uses to the public (alike in England 
and America) of the Dictionary of National Biography. 

viii PREFACE. 

Of that lecture I have only printed a small section in 
this volume. I have substituted for it, by way of 
introduction, a sketch of the intellectual spirit which 
was peculiar to the sixteenth century. This preparatory 
essay, which is practically new, gives, I trust, increased 
unity to the general handling of my theme. 

The six men of whom I treat are all obviously, in 
their several ways, representative of the highest culture 
of sixteenth-century England. But they by no means 
exhaust the subject. Many other great Englishmen 
of the sixteenth century statesmen like Wolsey and 
Burghley, theologians like Colet and Hooker, dramatists 
like Marlowe and Ben Jonson, men of science like 
William Gilbert, the elec.trician, and Napier of Mer- 
chiston, the inventor of logarithms deserve association 
with them in any complete survey of sixteenth-century 
culture. In choosing five of the six names, I was 
moved by the fact that I had already studied, with some 
minuteness, their careers and work in my capacity of 
contributor to the Dictionary of National Biography. 
I wrote there the lives of Sir Thomas More, Sir Philip 
Sidney, and Shakespeare, and I collaborated with others 
in the biographies of Sir Walter Ralegh and Edmund 
Spenser. I have not written at any length on Bacon 
before; but it is obvious that not the briefest list of 
great Englishmen of the sixteenth century would be 
worthy of attention were he excluded from it. I hope 
that, by presenting Bacon in juxtaposition with Shake 
speare, I may do something to dispel the hallucination 
which would confuse the achievements of the one with 
those of the other. 

Any who desire to undertake further study of the men 


who form my present subject may possibly derive some 
guidance from the bibliographies prefixed to each chapter. 
There I mention the chief editions of the literary works 
which I describe and criticise, and give references to 
biographies of value. For full bibliographies and ex 
haustive summaries of the biographical facts, the reader 
will do well to consult, in each case, the article in the 
Dictionary of National Biography. My present scheme 
only enables me to offer my readers such information as 
illustrates leading characteristics. I seek to trace the 
course of a great intellectual movement rather than 
attempt detailed biographies of those who are identified 
with its progress. 

In the hope of increasing the usefulness of the volume 
I have supplied a somewhat full preliminary analysis of 
its contents, as well as a chronological table of leading 
events in European culture from the introduction of 
printing into England in 1477 to Bacon's death in 1626. 
In preparing these sections of the book, I have been 
largely indebted to the services of Mr. W. B. Owen, B.A., 
late scholar of St. Catherine's College, Cambridge. I 
have at the same time to thank my friend Mr. Thomas 
Seccombe for reading the final proofs. 

October i, 1904. 



V 11 







The discovery of Greek lit 

erature and philosophy, . 



The Italian influence, 


National Biography and six 
teenth century England, . 27 
Causes of distinctive achieve 

The physical revelation, 
Maritime exploration, 
The discovery of the solar 


ment, . . . .28 

system, . 


The Renaissance, . . 28 

The expansion of thought, . 


Unity of the movement, . 29 


' Knowledge is power,' . 30 

The invention of printing, . 



The Renaissance and the 

Width of outlook, . .31 
Checks on distribution of 

Church of Rome, . 
The compromise of Protes 


tantism, . 


mental energy, . . 32 
Versatility of great English 

Literary influence of the 

A T 

men of the epoch, . . 32 

I 1 



The ethical paradox of the 

The transitional aspect of 

era, . . . 


the century, . . -34 

The alliance of good and evil, 


Primary causes of the awak 

The major paradox of More, 

ening, . . . .34 

Bacon, and Ralegh,. . 


The priority of the intellec 

The minor paradox of Sidney, 

tual revelation, . . 34 

Spenser, and Shakespeare, 





The invention of printing, . 




More's birth, 7th Feb. 1478, 45 

More's father, 





At school in London . 47 
In the service of Archbishop 

Morton, 1491, . 47 

At Oxford, 1492, . . 48 

The influence of Oxford, . 48 

A student of law, 1494, . 49 

Spiritual questionings', . 50 

The influence of Erasmus, . 51 
Erasmus's friendship for 
More, .... 52 


More's first marriage, 1505, 53 

His second marriage, 1511, 54 

Settlement at Chelsea, . 55 
Under-Sheriff of London, 

1510, .... 55 

t V 

First visit to the Continent, 

*5 1 S> .. 55 
Social recreation at Ant 
werp, ... .56 

First draft of the Utopia, 

1516, . . .56 

Detachment of the Utopia, 57 


' The First Book of the Utopia, 57 

The ideal of the New World, 58 

The Second Book, . . 59 

Utopian philosophy, . . 60 

Utopian religion, . . 6l 


Utopia published on the 
Continent, ... 62 

Contrast between Utopian 
precepts and More's per 
sonal practice, . . 63 

The Utopia a dream of 
fancy, . . . - 63 

Dread of the Lutheran 
revolution, ... 64 

Court office, . . -65 

More's attitude to politics, 66 

His loyalty, ... 67 

Rapid preferment, 1518- 
1523 68 

Chancellor, 25th October 
1529, .... 69 

The King and the Reforma 
tion, . . '.. '. 7 


More's view of the King's 
projected divorce, . . 71 

The growth of Protestan 
tism, .... 71 

More's conscientious 
scruples, . . 7 2 

His resignation of the Wool 
sack, . . . . 73 

His spiritual ambition, . 73 


More's impaired resources, 74 

The Chelsea tomb, . . 75 

His work as Chancellor, . 75 


More and theological con 
troversy, ... 77 
The Maid of Kent, 1533, . 79 
The threat of prosecution, . 80 


Thetriumphof AnneBoleyn, 81 
The oath abjuring the Pope, 81 
More's detention, 1534, . 82 
The oath of the Act of Suc 
cession, .... 83 


In the Tower, 1534, . . 84 
His trial, 1st July 1535, . 85 






His love of art, . 


More's execution, 6th July 

His Latin writing, 




His English poetry, . 


The reception abroad 6f the 

His English prose, . 


news, .... 


Pico's Life, 



Controversial theology, 
His devotional treatises, . 


More's character, 


His literary repute, . 


His mode of life, 


The paradoxes of his career, 






'Astrophel and Stella,' 



Sidney s sonnets, 


Their influence, 


Sidney's rank, . 


Intellectual ambitions, 




Political ambitions, . 



National strife, . 


At Heidelberg and Vienna, 


Sidney's birth, 3Oth Nov. 


* Jl / 9 

At Antwerp, 


IS54, -.> . 


Queen Elizabeth's accession, 
1558, .... 


Varied occupations, . . 


The Earl of Leicester, 


Friendship with Spenser, . 

1 20 

The literary club of ' The 


Areopagus,' 1579, . 


At Shrewsbury school, 


Intercourse with Bruno, 

Fulke Greville, . . '"'. 


1584, .... 


At Oxford, 1568, 


Lord Burghley's favour, . 



Sidney and the Drama, 



The Apologiefor Poetrie, , 


Foreign travel, . 


The worth of poetry, 


The St. Bartholomew Mas 

Confusion between poetry 

sacre, 2jrd August 1572, 


and prose, 


The meeting with Languet, 


Enlightened conclusions, . 


At Vienna, 1573, 



At Venice, 1573-4. 
Protestant zeal, . 


Difficulties at Court, . 


Diplomatic employment, . 
End of the foreign tour, 


In retirement, . 
The Arcadia, 
Its foreign models, 




The verse of the Arcadia, . 


At Kenilworth, 1576, 


The prose style, 


Penelope Devereux, . 


Want of coherence, . . 




Reconciliation with the 

Queen, . . . . 139 
Official promotion, . .140 
His knighthood, 1583, . 140 
Joint-Master of the Ord 
nance, 1585, . . .141 
Marriage, 1585, . . 141 
The cal I of the New World , 142 
Grant to Sidney of land in 
America, . . .143 

The last scene, . 




Hostility to Spain, 1585, . 145 
Governor of Flushing, 1586, 146 
Difficulties of the Dutch 

campaign, . . . 146 
The attack on Zutphen, 

1586, . . . .147 
Sidney's death, i;th Oct. 

1586, . . . .148 


Sidney's career, . . . 149 
His literary work, . .150 
Influence of the Arcadia, . 151 
The impression of his life 
and work, . . .152 


Primary cause of colonial 

Three secondary causes, 


Great colonising epochs, . 
Columbus's discovery, 1492, 
England and the New 
World, .... 
America and new ideals, . 
The spirit of adventure, 
Imaginary age of Gold, 
Moral ideals, . . 

Ralegh a type of Elizabethan 


Sir Francis Drake, . 
Sir Humphrey Gilbert, 
Ralegh's birth, 1552, 
Infancy and Education, 


The rivalry with Spain, 






Spain and Holland, . .163 
Ralegh in France, 1569, . 163 
His first conflict with Spain, 163 
In Ireland, 1580, . .164 

Ralegh and Queen Eliza 
beth, 1581, . . .166 
His relations with Virginia, 168 
The potato and tobacco, : 169 

Captain John Smith in Vir 
ginia, . . . .170 

Colonial philosophy of the 
time, . . . .170 

The Spanish Armada, 1588, 172 
Intellectual pursuits, . .173 
Ralegh's poetry, . .174 
Meetings at the ' Mermaid,' 175 

El Dorado, . . .170 
162 j The Expedition to Guiana, 177 







Ralegh and Court fac 

Hopes of freedom, 


tions, . . . . 


The projected return to 

The accession of James I., 

Guiana, 1616, . . 


1603, .... 


Failure of the expedition, . 


Charges of treason, . 


Disgrace and death, 2gth 

Sentence of death, 1603, . 


Oct. 1618, 




Contemporary estimate of 

In the Tower, . 

1 86 

Ralegh, . . . . 


Scientific curiosity, . 

1 86 

His failure and success, 


The History of the World, . 

1 86 

The true founder of Ameri 

Character of the work, 

1 88 

can colonisation, . 






Its foreign models, . 



Eulogy of Chaucer, . 


The Elizabethan pursuit of 
poetry, .... 
The contrast between Spen 


The critical apparatus, 
Place of the poem in Eng 
lish poetry, . 


ser's career and his poetic 


zeal, .... 


Official promotion, 1580, . 



Migration to Ireland, 


His humble birth, 1552, . 


The Irish problem, . 


At Merchant Taylors' 

Early friends in Ireland, . 


School, .... 


Spenser's poetic exertions, 


At Cambridge, . 


Gabriel Harvey, 



Early verse, 1568, 


Removal to the south of 


Ireland, 1588, 


Disappointment in love, 
Settlement in London, 
1578, .... 
The patronage of Leicester, 



Quarrels with neighbours, . 
Sir Walter Ralegh, . 
London revisited, 1589, 
The Faerie Queene, Books 



Sir Philip Sidney, 


.- ., . 

22 j 

The classical fallacy, . 



Poetic experiments, . 


The grant of a pension, 



The return to Ireland, 1597, 


The Skefheards Calender, 

His despair of his fortunes, 




Complaints, 1590, 






The tomb in Westminster 

The poet's marriage, 1594, 228 

Abbey, . . . . . 


His Amoretti, 1595, . . 228 


The Epithalamion, 1595, . 231 

Spenser's greatness, . 


The Faerie Queeite con 

The Faerie Queene, . 

241 1 ' 

tinued, 1596,. . ' . 232 

The amplitude of scale, 

242 , 

Political difficulties, . . 232 

The moral aim, 


The Earl of Essex's patron 

The debt to Plato, . 


age, .... 232 

Affinities with chivalric 

The prose tract on Ireland, 



1597, - 2 33 

Want of homogeneity, 


The allegory, . . 



Bunyan's superiority, 


Sheriff of Cork, 1598, . 236 

Influence of the age, . 


Ireland in rebellion, . . 237 

The Spenserian stanza, 


Last mission to London, 

The vocabulary, 


1598, . . . .238 

The debt to Chaucer, 


His death, l6th January 

Sensitiveness to beauty, 


1599 2 38 

Spenser's influence, . 

260 . 




Essex's death, Feb. 25, 1601, 



Bacon's perfidy, . '. 


Bacon's and Shakespeare's 


distinct individualities, . 263 

Bacon and James I., . ' . 



Advice to the King, . 


Bacon's parents, . . 264 

The political situation, 


Birth, Jan. 22, 1561, . 265 


Education, . . . 265 

Literary occupations, 



Marriage, 1606, . . 


The profession of law, . 267 

Bacon's first promotion, 

Bacon's idealism, . . 267 
His materialism, . . 267 

1607, . . . ; ;^, 

Attorney-General, 1613, . 


His entrance into politics, . 268 


His scheme of life, . . 269 

The political peril, . ' JfJR 



Bacon and Buckingham, . 


Bacon's relations with Essex, 271 

Lord Keeper, 1617, . 


The government of Ire 

Lord Verulam, 1618, and 

land, .... 272 

Viscount St. Alban, 1621, 


Downfall of Essex, 1601, . 273 

His judicial work, 




The Novum Organuni, 

1620, .... 
The charge of corruption, 

1621, .... 
Bacon's collapse, 

His punishment and his re 

His literary and scientific 
occupation, . 


His death, April 9, 1626, . 
His neglect of morality, 
His want of savoir fatre, . 


His true greatness, 
His literary versatility, 
His contempt for the Eng 
lish tongue, . 
His Essays, 
His majestic style, 
His verse,}. . . . 






His philosophic works, . 297 


His attitude to science, . 298 

His opposition to Aristotle, 298 

On induction, . . . 298 

The doctrine of idols, . 300 


The limitless possibilities of 
man's knowledge, . . 301 

The fragmentary character 
of his work, ... 301 

His ignorance of contempo 
rary advances in science, 302 

His own discoveries, . . 303 

His place in the history of 
science, .... 303 


The endowment of research, 304 
The New Atlantis, 1614- 

1618, .... 304 
The epilogue to the English 

Renaissance, . . . 304 
The imaginary college of 

science 306 

Bacon's aspiration, . . 308 
Prospects of realising 

Bacon's ideal, . . 308 


BIBLIOGRAPHY, . . . 311 


The documentary material, 311 
Parentage and baptism, 

26th April 1564, . .312 
Education, . . .312 
His- self-training, . . 313 


Experiences of youth, . 314 
The infant drama, . -315 
His association with Lon- 
-don, 1586, . . . 316 


The period of probation, . 317 

Use of law terms, . 317 
Shakespeare's conformity 

with prevailing habit, . 320 


Shakespeare's early plays, 321 
The Earl of South 

ampton, . 321 

At Court, 1594, . 322 

Court favour, . . 324 

xviii CONTENTS. 





The favour of the crowd, . 


His last days, April 1616, . 


Popular fallacy of Shake 

His will, . 


speare's neglect, 


His monument, . 




Progressive quality of his 
work, . . . 


His elegists, 
Prophecy of immortality, . 




The return to Stratford, 

The certainty of our know 





His financial competence, . 


The loss of his manuscripts, 






Knowledge of French and 

Italian, .... 



Lack of scholarship, . 


Shakespeare's universal re 


In Germany and France, . 
Shakespeare's patriotism, . 



Shakespeare no traveller 
abroad, .... 
Imaginative affinity with 



Italy, .... 


Foreign influence on Eliza 
bethan literature, . . 
Elizabethan plagiarism, 


Internal evidences of foreign 
Greek mythology, 



Mythical history of Greece, 


History of Rome, 


Shakespeare's assimilative 

I talian history and literature, 


power, ... 


The Italian novel, 


His instantaneous power of 

Othello and Merchant of 

perception, . . . 


Venice, .... 


Petrarch, .... 



Italian art, 


Early instruction in Latin, 



Apparent ignorance of 
Greek, .... 


Poetry of France, 
Rabelais and Montaigne, . 



Alertness in acquiring for 
eign knowledge, 

The geographical aspect of 
his work, 

Geographical blunders, 

The foreign spirit in 


Historic sensibility, . 
Fidelity to ' atmosphere,' 





Width of historic outlook, . 




t of 


Shakespeare's relation to 


his era 


Ji * 

Elizabethan literature and 

37 2 

the Renaissance, . 


Shakespeare's foreign con 

temporaries, . 



The diffusion of the spirit 


of the Renaissance, 



Misapprehensions to be 



guarded against, 




1477. Caxton sets up a printing- 

press at Westminster. 
Birth of Titian. 

1478. Birth of Sir Thomas More. 
1480. Birth of Bandello, the 

Italian novelist. 

1483. Birth of Raphael. 
Birth of Luther. 
Birth of Rabelais. 

1484. Birth of Julius Caesar 


1485. Death of Richard in. 
Accession of Henry vil. 

1486. Birth of Andrea del Sarto. 

1491. Copernicus studies optics 

and mathematics at 

1492. Columbus's first voyage to 

West Indies. 

1493. Columbus's second voyage 

to West Indies. 

1494. Death of Politian. 

1497. John Cabot sights Cape 

Breton and Nova Scotia. 
Vasco da Gama rounds the 

Cape of Good Hope. 
Birth of Holbein. 

1498. Columbus discovers South 


Erasmus first visits Eng 

Death of Savonarola. 

1499. Cabot follows North Amer 
ican coast from 60 to 30 
N. lat. 
Leonardo da Vinci's. ' Last 


Birth of Charles V. 
1502. Columbus sails in the Gulf 

of Mexico. 

1504. More enters Parliament. 
More's first marriage. 
Leonardo da Vinci paints 

'Mona Lisa.' 
Sanazzaro's Arcadia. 
1506. Death of Columbus. 

1508. Michael Angelo decorates 

the roof of the Sistine 

1509. Death of Henry vn. 
Accession of Henry vni. 
Erasmus's Encom turn 

Moritz published. 
Raphael decorates the 

Birth of Calvin. 

1510. More Under - Sheriff of 


Ariosto's Orlando Furioso. 
Titian paints ' Sacred and 

profane Love.' 
Death of Botticelli. 

1511. More's second marriage. 

1512. Death of Amerigo Vespucci. 



1513. Leo x. Pope. 

Wolsey chief minister in 

Machiavelli's Prince com 

1515. More sent as envoy to 


Raphael's ' Sistine Ma 

1516. Erasmus issues revised 

Greek text of New 

1516. More's Utopia. 

1517. Erasmus finally leaves 


Luther nails his challenge 
to the Pope on Witten 
berg Church door. 

1518. Birth of Tintoretto. 

1519. Death of Leonardo da 

Charles V. elected emperor. 

1520. Death of Raphael. 
Luther burns papal bull 

condemning him. 

1521. More knighted. 

Luther translates Scriptures 

into German. 
Death of Leo X. 

1522. Luther attacks Henry vill. 

1523. Lord Berners's translation 

of Froissart's Chronicles 

(ist vol.) published. 
More Speaker of the House 

of Commons. 
Titian's ' Bacchus and 


1524. Birth of Ronsard. 

1525. Tyndale translates the New 

Testament into English. 
Lord Berners's translation 

of Froissart's Chronicles 

(2nd vol.) published. 
More Chancellor of the 

Duchy of Lancaster. 

1526. Sebastian Cabot visits La 

Plata on behalf of Charles 
v. of Spain. 

1527. Holbein visits England. 
Death of Machiavelli (cet. 


1528. Birth of Albert Diirer. 
Birth of Paul Veronese. 

1529. More succeeds Wolsey as 

Lord Chancellor. 

1 530. Copernicus (De Revolution- 

ibus) completes descrip 
tion of solar system. 
The Augsburg Confession 
embodies Luther's final 

1532. More resigns office of Lord 


Machiavelli's Prince pub 

Rabelais' Pantagrnel and 

Birth of Jean Antoine de 

1533. Separation of English 

Church from Rome. 

Divorce of Queen Cather 

Death of Ariosto. 

Birth of Montaigne. 

1534. Henry vin. made supreme 

Head of the Church of 

The Nun of Kent denoun 
ces Henry vin. 

More sent to the Tower. 

1535. Execution of More. 
Coverdale's translation of 

the Bible (first complete 
Bible printed in Eng 

1536. English Bible issued by 


Dissolution of lesser mon 



1536. Pope Paul in. issues bull 
of deposition against 
Henry viu. 

Death of Erasmus. 

Calvin's Christiana; Ke- 
ligionis fnstitutio pub 

1539. Suppression of greater 

abbeys in England. 

1540. Order of Jesuits instituted. 

1542. Montemayor's Diana. 
Inquisition established in 


1543. Death of Copernicus. 
Death of Holbein. 

1 544. Birth of Tasso. 

1 546. Michael Angelo designs the 

dome of St. Peter's, Rome. 
Death of Luther. 
Birth of Tycho Brahe. 
Birth of Philippe Desportes. 

1547. Death of Henry vm. 
Accession of Edward vi. 
Birth of Cervantes. 

1549. English Book of Common 

Prayer issued. 

Ronsard's first poem pub 

Du Bellay's Defense et 
illustration de la langue 

1550. Monument to Chaucer 

erected in Westminster 

Inauguration of the French 

1551. English translation of 

More's Utopia. 

1552. English Prayer Book re 

vised by Cranmer. 
Birth of Edmund Spenser. 
Birth of Sir Walter Ralegh. 

1553. Death of Edward vi. 
Coronation of Lady Jane 


1553. Accession of Mary, who 

restores the Catholic re 
Death of Rabelais. 

1554. Birth of Sir Philip Sidney. 
Bandello's Novelle pub 

1555. Persecution of Protestants 

in England. 

1556. Death of Cranmer. 
Death of Ignatius Loyola, 

founder of the Jesuits. 
1558. England loses Calais. 

Death of Queen Mary. 

Accession of Queen Eliza 
beth, who restores Pro 
testantism in England. 

Death of Julius Caesar 

1560. The Geneva (Breeches) 

First collective edition of 

the works of Ronsard. 
Death of Du Bellay. 
Death of Bandello, the 

Italian novelist. 

1561. Birth of Francis Bacon. 
Scaliger's Poetics published. 

1562. Tasso's epic Rinaldo writ 


1563. The Thirty-nine Articles 

imposed on the English 

1564. Birth of Shakespeare. 
Birth of Marlowe. 
Death of Michael Angelo. 
Death of Calvin. 

Birth of Galileo. 

1565. Cinthio's Hecatommithi 


1568. The 'Bishops' Bible' pub 

1571. Bull of deposition issued by 
Pope Pius v. against 
Queen Elizabeth. 



'1571. Birth of Kepler. 

1572. The St. Bartholomew Mas 

sacre in Paris. 

1573. Sidney in Germany and 


1574. Death of Cinthio, the Ital 

ian novelist. 

1576. First public theatre opened 

in London. 

Death of Titian. 

Festivities at Kenilworth 
in honour of Queen Eliza 

Spenser becomes M.A. 

1577. Sidney on diplomatic mis 

sion in Germany. 
Birth of Rubens. 

1578. Sidney visits William of 

Orange at Antwerp. 

1579. Gosson's School of Abuse. 
North's English translation 

of Plutarch's Lives. 

Spenser's Shepheards Cal 
ender published. 

Sidney and Spenser be 
come members of the 
' Areopagus.' 

Birth of John Fletcher. 

1580. Lyly's Euphues published. 
Spenser settles in Ireland 

in Government service. 

Sir F. Drake returns to 
England after his cir 

Kepler and Tycho Brahe's 
Astronomical Tables 

Montaigne's Essais (L, ii.) 

1581. Sidney's Arcadia finished, 

his Sonnets and Apologie 
for Poetrie begun. 
Tasso's Gerusalemme Lib- 
erata published, and 
Aminta written. 

1582. Shakespeare marries Anne 


Bible translated by English 
Catholics at Rheims. 

1583. Bruno visits England. 
Sidney knighted : becomes 

Joint - Master of Ord 
nance, and marries 
Frances Walsingham. 

Sir Humphrey Gilbert voy 
ages to Newfoundland. 

Grant to Sidney of land in 

Galileo discovers the prin 
ciple of the pendulum. 

1584. Bacon enters Parliament. 
Ralegh's colonisation of 

Virginia begins. 
Birth of Francis Beaumont. 

1585. Death of Ronsard (27th 


Guarini's Pastor Fido acted. 

Cervantes' first work, Gala 
tea, published. 

1586. Shakespeare leaves Strat- 

ford-on- Avon for London. 

Hooker's Ecclesiastical 
Polity begun. 

Bacon becomes a member 
of Gray's Inn. 

English army supports 
Protestants of Low 

Death of Sir Philip Sidney. 

Tobacco and potatoes in 
troduced into England. 

1587. Marlowe's Tamburlaine 

Marlowe, Lodge, Greene, 

and Peele begin writing 

for English stage. 
Execution of Mary Queen 

of Scots. 

1588. Defeat of Spanish Armada. 
Death of Paul Veronese. 



1588. Montaigne's Essais (iii.) 


1589. Bacon's Advertisement 

touching Controversies of 

the Church. 

Drake plunders Corunna. 
Lope de Vega commences 

his great series of dramas. 
Death of Jean Antoine de 


1590. Sidney's.<4raKft0published. 
Spenser revisits London, 

and publishes his faerie 
Queene (i.-iii.). 
Death of Walsingham. 

1591. Bacon enters service of the 

Earl of Essex. 

Spenser receives a pension 
from the Queen. 

Sidney's Astrophel and 

Spenser's Daphnaida and 

Shakespeare's Love's La 
bour's Lost written. 

1592. Shakespeare remodels 

Henry VI. 
Death of Montaigne. 
Galileo supports Coper- 

nican theory in lectures 

at Padua. 

1 593. Death of Marlowe. 
Shakespeare's Venus and 

Adonis published. 

1594. Shakespeare's Lucrece pub 


Shakespeare acts at Court. 
Spenser marries Elizabeth 

Death of Tintoretto. 

1 595. Ralegh sails to Guiana. 
Spenser's Colin Clout, 

Amoretti, and Epilha- 
lamion published. 
Death of Tasso. 

1595. Sidney's Apologie for 

Poetrie published. 

1596. Death of Sir Francis Drake. 
Ralegh's Discovery of 

Guiana written (pub 
lished, 1606). 

Spenser's View of the State 
of Ireland completed, 
Faerie Queene (iv. vi.) 
and Prothalamion pub 

1597. First edition of Bacon's 


Shakespeare writes I Henry 
IV., and purchases New 
Place, Stratford - on - 

1598. Globe Theatre built. 
Death of Lord Burghley. 
Spenser Sheriff of Cork. 
Sidney's Arcadia edited in 


Jonson's Every Man in His 
Humour acted. 

1599. Death of Spenser and burial 

in Westminster Abbey. 
Expedition of Earl of Essex 
in Ireland. 

1600. William Gilbert's De 

Magnete published. 

Death of Hooker. 

Birth of Calderon. 

Fairfax's translation of 
Tasso's Jerusalem Deliv 
ered published. 

Giordano Bruno burned at 

Earl of Essex's rebellion 
and execution. 

1 60 1. Death of Tycho Brahe ; he 

is succeeded by Kepler 
as astronomer to the 
Emperor Rudolph n. 

1602. Hamlet produced. 

1603. Death of Queen Elizabeth. 



1603. Accession of James I. 
Florio's translation of 

Montaigne published. 
Ralegh condemned for 
alleged treason, and im 
prisoned .in the Tower 
of London. 

1604. Hamlet published in quarto. 
England makes peace with 

Kepler's Optics published. 

1605. Bacon's Advancement of 

Learning published. 
Bacon marries Alice Barn- 

Cervantes's Don Quixote, 

Part i., published. 
Death of Desportes. 

1607. Bacon Solicitor-General. 

1608. King Lear published in 

Birth of Milton. 

1609. Spenser's Works published 

in folio. 

Shakespeare's Sonnets, 
Troihis and Cressida, 
and Pericles published in 

Kepler publishes first and 
second laws of astro 
nomical calculation. 

Galileo discovers the satel 
lites of Jupiter. 

1611. Shakespeare's Tempest pro 

bably written ; after 
which the dramatist re 
tires to Stratford. 
Authorised Version of 
Bible issued. 

1612. Second Edition of Bacon's 


Death of Robert Cecil, 
Earl of Salisbury. 

1613. Bacon Attorney-General. 
Death of Guarini. 

1614. Ralegh's History of the 

World published. 

1615. Cervantes's Don Quixote, 

Part ii., published. 

1616. Bacon privy-councillor. 
Death of Shakespeare. 
Death of Francis Beau 

Death of Cervantes. 

1617. Bacon Lord Keeper. 
Expedition of Ralegh to 

the Orinoco. 

Galileo submits to the eccle 
siastical authorities. 
1619. Bacon Lord Chancellor, 
and raised to peerage as 
Lord Verulam. 
Ralegh's execution. 

1619. Harvey reveals his discov 

ery of the Circulation of 
the Blood. 

Kepler publishes third law 
in his Harmonia Mundi. 

1620. Landing of Pilgrim Fathers 

in New England. 
Bacon's Novttm Organum 

1621. Bacon made Viscount St. 

Alban ; charged with 
corruption, convicted, 
and degraded. 

1622. Bacon's Henry VII. pub 


Othello published in 

1623. Shakespeare's First Folio 


Bacon's De Augmentis 

1624. Bacon writes New Atlantis. 

1625. Third and final edition of 

Bacon's Essays. 
Death of James I. 
Death of John Fletcher. 

1626. Death of Bacon (April 9). 



' What a piece of work is man ! How noble in reason ! 
how infinite in faculty ! in form, in moving how express 
and admirable ! in action how like an angel ! in apprehen 
sion how like a god ! the beauty of the world ! the paragon 
of animals ! ' 

SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet, n. ii. 323-328. 

' Nam ipsa scientia potestas est.' 

BACON, Meditationes Sacrae. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. The subject of the European Renais 
sance may be studied at length in Burckhardt's Civilisation 
of the Period of the Renaissance in Italy (English ed. 
1890) ; in J. A. Symonds's Renaissance in Italy (7 vols. 
ed. 1898) ; and in the Cambridge Modern History, vol. i. , 
1902. Important phases of the movement are well illus 
trated in Walter Pater's collection of Essays called The 
Renaissance (1877).] 

T N the Dictionary of National Biography will be 

* found the lives of more than two thou- , T . . 

,_,,., National 

sand Englishmen and Englishwomen who Biography 

flourished in England in the sixteenth cen- and 
tury. It is the first century in our history sixteenth 

which offers the national biographer sub- centur y 

... r r- England, 

jects reaching m number to four figures. 

The Englishmen who attained, according to the national 


biographer's estimate, the level of distinction entitling 
them to biographic commemoration were in the sixteenth 
century thrice as numerous as those who reached that 
level in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. 

The number of distinguished men which a country 
produces depends to some extent, but to some extent 
Causes of onlv > on ^ ts PP ulat i on - England of the 
distinctive sixteenth century was more populous than 
achieve- England of the fourteenth or fifteenth, but 
ment. t jj e mcrease o f population is not as three to 

one, which is the rate of increase in the volume of 
distinctive achievement. Probably the four millions 
of the fifteenth century became five millions in the 
sixteenth, a rate of increase of twenty-five per cent., 
an infinitesimal rate of increase when it is compared 
with the gigantic increase of three hundred per cent., 
which characterises the volume of distinctive achieve 
ment. One must, therefore, look outside statistics of 
population for the true cause of the fact that for every 
man who gained any sort of distinction in fifteenth 
century England, three men gained any sort of distinc 
tion in the sixteenth century. It is not to the numbers 
of the people that we need direct our attention; it is 
to their spirit, to the working of their minds, to their out 
look on life, to their opportunities of uncommon experi 
ence that we must turn for a solution of our problem. 

Englishmen of the sixteenth century breathed a new 
atmosphere intellectually and spiritually. They came 

under a new stimulus, compounded of many 
Ine Ke- , , .. , ,.,..* 

naissance. el ements, each of them new and inspiring. 

To that stimulus must be attributed the sud 
den upward growth of distinctive achievement among 
them, the increase of the opportunities of famous ex- 


ploits, and the consequent preservation from oblivion 
of more names of Englishmen than in any century 
before. The stimulus under which Englishmen came 
in the sixteenth century may be summed up in the 
familar word Renaissance. The main factor of the 
European Renaissance, of the New Birth of intellect, 
was a passion for extending the limits of human know 
ledge, and for employing man's capabilities to new and 
better advantage than of old. New curiosity was gener 
ated in regard to the dimensions of the material world. 
There was a boundless enthusiasm for the newly dis 
covered art and literature of ancient Greece. Men 
were fired by a new resolve to make the best and not 
the worst of life upon earth. They were ambitious to 
cultivate as the highest good the idea of beauty. 

All the nations of Western Europe came under the 
sway of the mighty movement of the Renaissance, and 
although national idiosyncrasies moulded Unity 
and coloured its development in each of the 
country, there was everywhere close resem- movement. 
blance in the general effect. The intellectual restless 
ness and recklessness of sixteenth-century England, with 
its literary productivity and yearning for novelty and 
adventure, differed little in broad outline, however 
much it differed in detail, from the intellectual life of 
sixteenth-century France, Italy, Spain, or even Ger 
many. It was the universal spirit of the Renaissance, 
and no purely national impulse, which produced in 
sixteenth-century England that extended series of 
varied exploits on the part of Englishmen and English 
women, the like of which had not been known before 
in the history of our race. That series of exploits may 
be said to begin with the wonderful enlightenment of 


Sir Thomas More's Utopia, and to culminate in the 
achievements of Bacon and Shakespeare ; sharply 
divided as was the form of Shakespeare's work from 
that of Bacon's, each was in spirit the complement of 
the other. 

Bacon ranks in eminence only second to Shakespeare 
among the English sons of the Renaissance, and his 
'Know- Latin apophthegm, 'nam ipsa scientia po- 
ledge is testas est ' ' for knowledge is power ' 
power.' might be described as the watchword of 
the intellectual history of England, as of all Western 
Europe, in the sixteenth century. The true sons of the 
Renaissance imagined that unrestricted study of the 
operations of nature, life, and thought could place at 
their command all the forces which moved the world. 
The Renaissance student's faith was that of Marlowe's 
Faustus : 

' Oh, what a world of profit and delight, 
Of power, of honour, and omnipotence, 
Is promised to the studious artisan ! 
All things that move between the quiet poles 
Shall be at my command ; emperors and kings 
Are but obeyed in their several provinces ; 
But his dominion that exceeds in this, 
Stretcheth as far as doth the mind of man.' * 

Knowledge was the ever present quest. Study yielded 
'godlike recompense,' which was worthy of any exer 
tion. Men drank deep of the fountains of knowledge 
and were still insatiate. Extravagant conceptions were 
bred of the capabilities of man's intellect which made it 
easy of belief that omniscience was ultimately attain 

* Marlowe, I-auslus, Sc. I. 54 sq. 


Here and there a painful scholar of the Renaissance 
was content to seek knowledge in one direction only ; 

such an one cheerfully forwent the ioys of 

iv *v u f Width of 

life in the hope of mastering in all minute- out ] 00 k 

ness a single branch of learning, or of 
science. But the meticulous scholar was not typical 
of the epoch. The children of the Renaissance scorned 
narrowness of outlook. They thirsted for universal 
knowledge ; they pursued with equal eagerness practice 
and theory. Natural science was not divorced from 
literature. The study of mathematics was a fit pursuit 
for the artist. The greatest painter of the age, Leonardo 
da Vinci, was also poet, mathematician, engineer, expert 
indeed in all branches of physical science. The poet 
and the scholar were ambitious to engage in affairs of 
the world in war or politics. It was no part of a man, 
however richly endowed by genius, to avoid the active 
business of life. Dialecticians of the time credited all 
goals of human endeavour with inherent unity. They 
repeatedly argued, for example, that skill with the pen 
was the proper complement of skill with the sword. 
Poetry, according to Sir Philip Sidney, an admirable 
representative of Renaissance aspirations, was the right 
ful ' companion of camps,' and no soldier could safely 
neglect the military teachings of Homer. Avowed 
specialism was foreign to the large temper of the times. 
Versatility of interest and experience was the accepted 
token of human excellence. 

There are obvious disadvantages in excessive distribu 
tion of mental energy. The products of diversified 
endeavour are commonly formless, void, and evan- 


escent. But the era of the Renaissance had such 
abundant stores of intellectual energy that, in spite 

Checks on of a11 that was dissipated m tne va i n t uest 
distribu- of omniscience, there remained enough to 
tion of vitalise particular provinces of endeavour. with 
mental enduring and splendid effect. Theme," , 
energy. Renaissance had reserves of strengtl' '" th ^ 
enabled them to master more or less specialise 
of work, even while they winged vague and di . u U1 
flights through the whole intellectual expanse. . 
ardo da Vinci was an excellent mathematic; 
poet, but despite his excellence in these direct: . 
supreme power was concentrated on painting. 1 c 
as seemed the expenditure of intellectual effor" - r ' ace - 
was a practical economy in its application, 
result its ripest fruit was stimulating and lasting, v 
stimulating and lasting than any which came o 
more rigid specialism of later epochs. 

More and Ralegh, Sidney and Spenser, Bacon and 
Shakespeare, all pertinently illustrate the versatility of 
Versatility t ^ ie a e > tne ^^ digressiveness of its intel- 
of great lectual and imaginative endeavour. To 
English- varying extents omniscience was the foible 
men of the o f a u am j carried with it the inevitable 
penalties. Each set foot in more numerous 
and varied tracts of knowledge than any one man could 
thoroughly explore. They treated of many subjects, 
of the real significance of which they obtained only the 
faintest and haziest glimpse. The breadth of their 
intellectual ambitions at times impoverished their 
achievement. The splendid gifts of Sidney and Ralegh 
were indeed largely wasted in too wide and multi 
farious a range of work. They did a strange variety of 


things to admiration, but failed to do the one thing of 
isolated pre-eminence which might have rewarded effi 
cient concentration of effort. Shakespeare's intellectual 
capacity seems as catholic in range as Leonardo da 
Vinci's, and laws that apply to other men hardly apply 
t^> j but there were tracts of knowledge, outside 
the fo lakespeare's province, on which he trespassed 
of th&' ' His handling of themes of law, geography, 
across olarship proves that in his case, as in that of 
Greek men, there were limits of knowledge beyond 
till the : was perilous for him to stray. With greater 
Turks t 2 Bacon wrote of astronomy without putting 
was dri' r to the trouble of apprehending the solar system 
Greek ' srnicus, and misinterpreted other branches of 
had y' ^ rom ^ ac ^ ^ s P ec i a ^ knowledge. But in the 
Bacon and Shakespeare, such errors are spots 
3 sun. As interpreter in drama of human nature 
t, rspeare has no rival ; nor indeed among prophets 
.ji science has any other shown Bacon's magnanimity 
or eloquence. Although nature had amply endowed 
hem with the era's universality of intellectual interests, 
she had also given them the power of demonstrating the 
full force of their rare genius in a particular field of 
effort. It was there that each reached the highest 
pinnacle of glory. 


In a sense the sixteenth century was an age of tran 
sition, of transition from the ancient to the modern 
world, from the age of darkness and superstition to the 
age of light and scientific knowledge. A mass of newly 
discovered knowledge lay at its disposal, but so large 
a mass that succeeding centuries had to be enlisted in 



the service of digesting it and co-ordinating it. When 

the sixteenth century opened, the aspects of human life 

had recently undergone revolution. The 

The Iran- . , , 

sitional old established theories of man and the 
aspect world had been refuted, and much time 
of the was required for the evolution of new 

century. theor i e s that should be workable, and fil the 
vacant places. The new problems were surveyed with 
eager interest and curiosity, but were left to the (Future 
for complete solution. The scientific spirit, whfch is 
the life of the modern world, was conceived p the 
sixteenth century ; it came to birth later. 

The causes of the intellectual awakening which dis 
tinguished sixteenth-century Europe lie on the surface. 
Primary ^ ts P r i marv mainsprings are twofold. Cti the 
causes one hand a distant past had been suddealy 

of the unveiled, and there had come to light an. 

awakening. anc i en t literature and an ancient philosophy 
which proved the human intellect to possess capacities 
hitherto unimagined^ On the other hand, the dark 
curtains which had hitherto restricted man's view of the 
physical world to a small corner of it were torn asunder, 
and the strange fact was revealed that that which had 
hitherto been regarded by men as the whole sphere of 
physical life and nature was in reality a mere frag 
ment of a mighty universe of which there had been no 
previous conception. 

Of the two revelations that of man's true intellectual 
The prior- capacity and that of the true extent of his 
ityofthe physical environment the intellectual reve- 
intellectual lation came first. The physical revelation 
revelation. f o n owe d at no long interval. It was an 
accidental conjuncture of events. But each powerfully 


reacted on the other, and increased its fertility of 

It was the discovery anew by Western Europe of 
classical Greek literature and philosophy which was the 
spring of the intellectual revelation of the T , ,. 
Renaissance. That discovery was begun in COV ery of 
the fourteenth century, when Greek subjects Greek 
of the falling Byzantine empire brought literature 
across the Adriatic manuscript memorials of ^ nd plu " 
Greek intellectual culture. But it was not 
till the final overthrow of the Byzantine empire by the 
Turks that all that survived of the literary art of Athens 
was driven westward in a flood, and the whole range of 
Greek enlightenment the highest enlightenment that 
had yet dawned in the human mind lay at the dis 
posal of Western Europe. It was then there came for 
the first time into the modern world the feeling for 
form, the frank delight in life and the senses, the un 
restricted employment of the reason, with every other 
enlightened aspiration that was enshrined in Attic liter 
ature and philosophy. Under the growing Greek influ 
ence, all shapes of literature and speculation, of poetry 
and philosophy, sprang into new life in Italy during 
the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. In the sixteenth 
century the torch was handed on by Italy xhe 
to Spain, France, Germany, and England. Italian 
In each of those countries the light devel- influence, 
oped in accord with the national idiosyncrasy, but in 
none of them did it wholly lose the Italian hue, which 
it acquired at its first coming into Western Europe. It 
was mainly through Florence that the newly released 
stream of Hellenism flowed northwards. 

From another quarter than the East came, a little 


later, the physical revelation which helped no less to 
mould the spirit of the era. Until the extreme end 
The f tne fifteenth century, man knew nothing 

physical of the true shape or extent of the planet 
revelation. on w hich his life was cast. Fantastic theories 
of cosmography had been evolved, to which no genuine 
test had been applied. It was only in the year 1492 
that Western Europe first learned its real place on the 
world's surface. The maritime explorations which dis 
tinguished the decade 1490-1500 unveiled new expanses 
of land and sea which reduced to insignificance the 
fragments of earth and heaven with which men had 
hitherto been familiar. 

To the west was brought to light for the first time a 
continent larger than the whole area of terrestrial matter 
Maritime of which there was previous knowledge. To 
explora- the south a Portuguese mariner discovered 
tion. th at Africa, which was hitherto deemed to 

be merely a narrow strip of earth forming the southern 
boundary wall of the world, was a gigantic peninsula 
thrice the size of Europe, which stretched far into a 
southern ocean, into the same ocean which washed the 
shores of India. 

Such discoveries were far more than contributions to 
the science of geography. They were levers to lift the 
Thedis- s P irit of man into unlooked-for altitudes, 
covery of They gave new conceptions not of earth 
the solar a i on e, but of heaven. The skies were sur 
veyed from points of view which had never 
yet been approached. A trustworthy study of the sun 
and stars became possible, and in the early years of the 
sixteenth century a scientific investigator deduced from 
the rich array of new knowledge the startling truth that 


the earth, hitherto believed to be the centre of Jhe uni 
verse, was only one and that not the largest of numer 
ous planetary bodies rotating about the sun. If 
Columbus and Vasco da Gama, the discoverers of new 
lands and seas, deserve homage for having first revealed 
the true dimensions of the earth, to Copernicus is due 
the supreme honour of having taught the inhabitants of 
the earth to know their just place in the economy of the 
limitless firmament, over which they had hitherto fancied 
that they ruled. Whatever final purpose sun, planets, and 
stars served, it was no longer possible to regard them 
as mere ministers of light and heat to men on earth. 

So stupendous was the expansion of the field of man's 
thought, which was generated by the efforts of Columbus 
and Copernicus, that only gradually was its The ex- 
full significance apprehended. All branches pansion 
of human endeavour and human speculation of thought, 
were ultimately remodelled in the light of the new physi 
cal revelation. The change was in the sixteenth century 
only beginning. But new ideals at once came to birth, 
and new applications of human energy suggested them 
selves in every direction. 

Dreamers believed that a new universe had been 
born, and that they were destined to begin a new 
manner of human life, which should be freed from the 
defects of the old. The intellectual revelation of a new 
culture powerfully reinforced the physical revelation of 
new heavenly and earthly bodies. Assured hopes of 
human perfectibility permeated human thought. The 
unveiling of the measureless expanse of physical nature 
made of man, physically considered, a pigmy, but the 
spirited enterprises whereby the new knowledge was 
gained combined with the revelation of the intellectual 


achievements of the past to generate the new faith that 
there lurked in man's mind a power which would ulti 
mately yield him mastery of all the hidden forces of 
animate and inanimate nature. 


The mechanical invention of the printing press almost 
synchronised with the twofold revelation of new realms 
The inven- of thought and nature. The ingenious device 
tion of came slowly to perfection, but as soon as it 
printing. was perfected, its employment spread with 
amazing rapidity under stress of the prevailing stir of 
discovery. The printing press greatly contributed to 
the dissemination of the ideas, which the movement of 
the Renaissance bred. Without the printing-press the 
spread of the movement would have been slower and 
its character would have been less homogeneous. The 
books embodying the new spirit would not have multi 
plied so quickly nor travelled so far. The printing-press 
distributed the fruit of the new spirit over the whole 
area of the civilised world. 

In every sphere of human aspiration through Western 
Europe the spirit of the Renaissance made its presence 
The Re- ^ t- ^ ew ideas invaded the whole field of 
naissance human effort in a tumbling crowd, but many 
and the traditions of the ancient regime, which the 
Church of j nv asion threatened to displace, stubbornly 
held their ground. Some veteran principles 
opposed the newcomers' progress and checked the 
growth of the New Birth of mind. The old Papal 
Church of Rome at the outset absorbed some of its 
teaching. The Roman Church did not officially dis- 


courage Greek learning and it encouraged exploration. 
There were humanists among the Popes of the fifteenth 
and sixteenth centuries. But the new spirit, in the ful 
ness of time, demanded concessions of the Church 
which struck at the root of her being. The Church 
peremptorily refused to remodel her beliefs on the liberal 
lines that the new spirit laid down. Ultimately she; 
declared open war on the enlightened thought of the 
Renaissance. Some essayed the subtle task of paying 
simultaneous allegiance to the two opposing forces. 
Erasmus's unique fertility of mental resource enabled 
him to come near success in the exploit. But most 
found the attempt beyond their strength, and, like Sir 
Thomas More, the greatest of those who tried to recon 
cile the irreconcilable, sacrificed genius and life in the 
hopeless cause. 

The Papacy had more to fear from the passion for 
inquiry and criticism which the Renaissance evoked 
than from the positive ideals and principles j^e com . 
which is generated. The great Protestant promise of 
schism is sometimes represented, without Protes- 
much regard for historic truth, as a calculated tantlsm - 
return to the primitive ideals of a distant past, as a 
deliberate revival of a divinely inspired system of religion 
which had suffered eclipse. Its origin is more com 
plex. It was mainly the outcome of a compromise with 
the critical temper, which the intellectual and physical 
revelations of the Renaissance imposed on men's mind. 
Protestantism, in the garb in which it won its main 
triumph, was the contribution of Germany to the spirit 
ual regeneration of the sixteenth century, and a Teutonic 
cloudiness of sentiment overhung its foundations. Pro 
testantism ignored large tracts of the new teaching and 


a mass of the new ideas which the Italian Renaissance 
brought to birth and cherished. But Protestants were 
eager to mould their belief in some limited agreement 
with the dictates of reason. They acknowledged, within 
bounds, the Renaissance faith in the power and right of 
the human intellect to grapple with the mysteries of 
nature. The dogmas and ceremonies of the old system 
which signally flouted reason were denounced and re 
jected. A narrow interpretation of the Renaissance 
theory of human perfectibility coloured new speculations 
as to the efficacy of divine grace. But Protestantism 
declined to take reason as its sole guide or object of 
worship. Protestantism was the fruit of a compromise 
between the old conception of faith and the new con 
ception of reason. The compromise was widely wel 
comed by a mass of inquirers who, though moved by 
the spirit of the age, were swayed in larger degree by 
religious emotion, and cherished unshakable confidence 
in the bases of Christianity. But the Protestant en 
deavour to accommodate old and new ideas was not 
acceptable in all quarters. A bold minority in Italy, 
France, and England, either tacitly or openly, spurned a 
compromise which was out of harmony with the genuine 
temper of the era. While Roman Catholicism fortified 
its citadels anew, and Protestantism advanced against 
them in battle array in growing strength, the free thought 
and agnosticism, which the unalloyed spirit of the Re 
naissance generated, gained year by year fresh acces 
sion of force in every country of Western Europe. 

On secular literature the religious reformation, working 
within its normal limits, produced a far-reaching effect. 
The qualified desire for increase of knowledge, which 
.characterised the new religious creeds, widely extended 


the first-hand study of the Holy Scriptures, which en 
shrined the title-deeds of Christianity. Translations of 
the Bible into living tongues were encouraged Literary 
by all Protestant reformers, and thereby influence 
Hebraic sublimity and intensity gained ad- of the 
mission to much Renaissance literature. It Bible, 
was owing to such turn of events that there met, notably 
in the great literature of sixteenth-century England, the 
solemnity of the Hebraism, with the Hellenist love of 
beauty and form. 

The incessant clash of ideas the ferment of men's 
thought strangely affected the moral character of many 
leaders of the Renaissance in England no x ne ethical 
less than in Europe. Life was lived at too paradox of 
high a pressure to maintain outward show of l ^ e era - 
unity of purpose. A moral chaos often reigned in 
man's being, and vice was entangled inextricably with 

Probably in no age did the elemental forces of good 
and evil fight with greater energy than in the sixteenth 
century for the dominion of man's soul. Or -j^e 
rather, never did the two forces make closer alliance 
compact with each other whereby they might of good 
maintain a joint occupation of the human an<1 evil - 
heart. Men who were capable of the noblest acts of 
heroism were also capable of the most contemptible acts 
of treachery. An active sense of loyalty to a throne 
seemed no bar to secret conspiracy against a sovereign's 
life. When Shakespeare described in his sonnets the 
two spirits 'the better angel ' and 'the worser spirit,' 
both of whom claimed his allegiance he repeated a 


conceit which is universal in the poetry of the Renais 
sance, and represents with singular accuracy the ethical 
temper of the age. 

Among the six men whose life and work are portrayed 
The ma' or * n tn ' s vo ^ ume > tnree More, Bacon, and 
paradox Ralegh forcibly illustrate the mutually in- 
of More, consistent characteristics with which the spirit 
Bacon, and o f t ne Renaissance often endowed one and 
Ralegh. tne same man- More, who proved himself 
in the Utopia an enlightened champion of the freedom 
of the intellect, and of religious toleration, laid down his 
life as a martyr to superstition and to the principle of 
authority (in its least rational form) in matters of religion. 
Ralegh, who preached in his History of the World and 
in philosophic ^tracts a most elevated altruism and phi 
losophy of life, neglected the first principles of honesty 
in a passionate greed of gold. Bacon, who rightly 
believed himself to be an inspired prophet of science, 
and a clear-eyed champion of the noblest progress in 
human thought, stooped to every petty trick in order to 
make money and a worldly reputation. 

Happily the careers of the three remaining subjects 
Sidney, Spenser, and Shakespeare are paradoxical in 
The minor a minor de g r ee. But the paradox which is 
paradox of inherent in the spirit of the time cast its 
Sidney, glamour to some extent even over them. 
Spenser, The poets Sidney and Spenser, who preached 

sea? e ha with every a PP earance of conviction the fine 
doctrine that the poets' crown is alone 
worthy the poets' winning, strained their nerves until 
they broke in death, in pursuit of such will-o'-the-wisps 
as political or military fame. Shakespeare, with narrow 
.personal experiences of life, and with worldly ambitions 


of commonplace calibre, mastered the whole scale of 
human aspiration and announced his message in lan 
guage which no other mortal has yet approached in 
insight or harmony. Shakespeare's career stands apart 
from that of his fellows and defies methods of analysis 
which are applicable to theirs. But he, no less than 
they, was steeped in the spirit of the Renaissance. In 
him that spirit reached its apotheosis. With it, however, 
there mingled in his nature a mysteriously potent ele 
ment, which belonged in like measure to none other. 
The magic of genius has worked miracles in individual 
minds in many epochs, but it never worked greater 
miracle than when it fused itself in Shakespeare's being 
with the ripe temper of Renaissance culture. 



' Thomae Mori ingenio quid unquam finxit natura vel 
mollius, vel dulcius, vel felicius?' [Than the temper of 
Thomas More did nature ever frame aught gentler, sweeter, 
or happier ?] 

Erasmi Epistolae, Tom. ill., No. xiv. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. The foundation for all lives of Sir 
Thomas More is the charming personal memoir by his 
son-in-law, William Roper, which was first printed at Paris 
in 1626, and after passing through numerous editions was 
recently re-issued in the ' King's Classics.' Cresacre More, 
Sir Thomas's great-grandson, a pious Catholic layman, 
published a fuller biography about 1631 ; this was re-issued 
for the last time in 1828. The Letters of Erasmus, 
Erasmi Epistolae, Leyden, 1706, which J. A. Froude has 
charmingly summarised, shed invaluable light on More's 
character. Mr. Frederic Seebohm's Oxford Reformers 
(Colet, Erasmus, and More) vividly describes More in rela 
tion to the religious revolution of his day. The latest 
complete biography, by the Rev. W. H. Hutton, B.D., 
appeared in 1895. The classical English translation of 
More's Utopia, which was first published in 1551, has 
lately been re-edited by Mr. Churton Collins for the 
Oxford University Press. More's English works have not 
been reprinted since they were first collected in 1557. The 
completest collection of his Latin works was issued in 
Germany in 1689.] 

SIR THOMAS MORE was a Londoner. He was born in 
the heart of the capital, in Milk Street, Cheapside, not 


far from Bread Street, where Milton was born more 
than a century later. The year of More's birth carries 
us back to 1478, to the end of the Middle More's 
Ages, to the year when the Renaissance was birth, ;th 
looming on England's intellectual horizon, Feb - T 47 8 - 
but was as yet shedding a vague and flickering light. The 
centre of European culture was in distant Florence, and 
England's interests at home were still mainly absorbed 
by civil strife. Though by 1478 the acutest phases of 
that warfare were passed, it was not effectually stemmed 
till Henry vn. triumphed at Bosworth Field and More 
was seven years old. Much else was to change before 
opportunity for great achievement should be offered 
More in his maturity. 

It was in association with men and movements for the 
most part slightly younger than himself that More first 
figured on life's stage. He set forth on life in the van 
guard of the advancing army of contemporary progress, 
but destiny decreed that death should find him at the 
head of the opposing forces of reaction. 

Of the leading actors in the drama in which More was 
to play his great part, two were at the time of his birth 
unborn, and two were in infancy. Luther, Senior of 
the practical leader of the religious rev- Luther and 
olution by which More's career was moulded, Henry vm. 
did not come into the world until More was five ; nor 
until he was thirteen was there born Henry VIIL, the 
monarch to whom he owed his martyrdom. To only 
two of the men with whom he conspicuously xhe junior 
worked was he junior. Erasmus, one of the of Erasmus 
chief emancipators of the reason, from whom and Wolsey. 
More derived abundant inspiration, was his senior by 
eleven years; Wolsey, the political priest, who was to 


give England ascendency in Europe and to offer More 
the salient opportunities of his career, was seven years 
his senior. 

One spacious avenue to intellectual progress was 
indeed in readiness for More and his friends from the 
The inven- outset One commanding invention, which 
tion of exerted unbounded influence the introduc- 
printing. tion into England by Caxton of the newly 
invented art of printing was almost coincident with 
More's birth. A year earlier Caxton had set up a 
printing-office in Westminster, and produced for the 
first time an English printed book there. That event 
had far-reaching consequences on the England of More's 
childhood. The invention of printing was to the six 
teenth century what the invention of steam locomotion 
was to the nineteenth. 

The birth in England of the first of the two great 
influences which chiefly stimulated men's intellectual 
development, during More's adolescence, was almost 
simultaneous with the introduction of printing. Greek 
learning and literature were first taught in the country 
at Oxford in the seventh decade of the fifteenth cen 
tury. It was not till the last decade of that century 
that European explorers set foot in the New World 
of America, and, by compelling men to reconsider 
their notion of the universe and pre-existing theories 
of the planet to which they were born, completed 
the inauguration of the new era of which More was 
the earliest English hero. 



More's family belonged to the professional classes, 
whose welfare depends for the most part on no extran 
eous advantages of inherited rank or wealth, , 
but on personal ability and application. His f at h er 
father was a barrister who afterwards became 
a judge. Of humble origin, he acquired a modest 
fortune. His temperament was singularly modest and 
gentle, but he was blessed with a quiet sense of humour 
which was one of his son's most notable inheritances. 
The father had a wide experience of matrimony, having 
been thrice married, and he is credited with the un- 
gallant remark that a man taking a wife is like one 
putting his hand into a bag of snakes with one eel 
among them ; he may light on the eel, but it is a hun 
dred chances to one that he shall be stung by a snake. 

Of the great English public schools only two Win 
chester and Eton were in existence when More was a 
boy, and they had not yet acquired a national 

TT TUT At school 

repute. Up to the age of thirteen More . , , 
attended a small day school the best of its 
kind in London. It was St. Anthony's school in 
Threadneedle Street, and was attached to St. Anthony's 
Hospital, a religious and charitable foundation for the 
residence of twelve poor men. Latin was the sole 
means and topic of instruction. 

Cardinal Morton, the Archbishop of Canterbury, was 
wont to admit to his household boys of good j n t jj e 
family, to wait on him, and to receive in- service of 
struction from his chaplains. More's father the Arch- 
knew the Archbishop, and requested him to bish P- 
take young Thomas More into his service. The boy's 


wit and towardness delighted the Archbishop. 'At 
Christmastide he would sometimes suddenly step in 
among the players and masquers who made merriment 
for the Archbishop, and, never studying for the matter, 
would extemporise a part of his own presently among 
them, which made the lookers-on more sport than all 
the players besides.' The Archbishop, impressed by 
the lad's alertness of intellect, ' would often say of him 
to the nobles that divers times dined with him "This 
child here waiting at the table, whoever shall live to see 
it, will prove a marvellous man." ' 

The Archbishop arranged with More's father to send 
him to the University of Oxford, and, when little more 

. , , than fourteen, he entered Canterbury Hall, 
At Oxford. . ' 

a collegiate establishment which was after 
wards absorbed in Cardinal Wolsey's noble foundation 
of Christ Church. 

More's allowance while an Oxford student was small. 
Without money to bestow on amusements, he spent his 
time in study to the best advantage. At Oxford, More 
came under the two main influences that dominated his 

Oxford has often been called by advanced spirits in 
England the asylum of lost causes, but those who call 
The her so have studied her history superficially, 

influence Oxford is commonly as ready to offer a home 
of Oxford. to new intellectual movements as faithfully to 
harbour old causes. Oxford has a singular faculty of 
cultivating the old and the new side by side with a 
parallel enthusiasm. The University, when More knew 
it, was proving its capacity in both the old and the new 
directions. It was giving the first public welcome in 
England to the new learning, to the revival of classical, 


and notably of Greek, study. It was helping to intro 
duce the modern English world to Attic literature, the 
most artistically restrained, the most brilliantly perspicu 
ous body of literature that has yet been contrived by 
the human spirit. Greek had been lately taught there 
for the first time by an Italian visitor, while several 
Oxford students had just returned from Italy burdened 
with the results of the new study. More came under 
the travelled scholars' sway, and his agile mind was 
filled with zeal to assimilate the stimulating fruits of 
pagan intellect. He read Greek and Latin authors with 
avidity, and essayed original compositions in their 
tongues. His scholarship was never very exact, but the 
instinct of genius revealed to him almost at a glance the 
secrets of the classical words. His Latin verse was 
exceptionally facile and harmonious. French came to 
him with little trouble, and, in emulation of the fre 
quenters of the Athenian Academy, he sought recrea 
tion in music, playing with skill on the viol and the 

His conservative father, who knew no Greek, was 
alarmed by his son's enthusiasm for learning, which did 
not come within his own cognisance. He 
feared its influence on the boy's religious of j a u 
orthodoxy, and deemed it safer to transfer 
him to the study of law. Recalling him from Oxford, 
he sent him to an Inn of Court in London before he 
was twenty, to pursue his own legal profession. More, 
with characteristic complacency, adapted himself to his 
new environment. Within a year or two he proved 
himself an expert and a learned lawyer. 

But his father had misunderstood Oxford, and had 
misunderstood his son. At the same time as the youth 


imbibed at Oxford a passion for the new learning, 
he had also imbibed a passion there for the old 
Spiritual religion. Oxford, with its past traditions of 
question- unswerving fidelity to the Catholic Church, 
ings. had made More a religious enthusiast at the 

same time as her recent access of intellectual enlighten 
ment had made him a zealous humanist. While he was 
a law student in London, the two influences fought for 
supremacy in his mind. He extended his knowledge 
of Greek, making the acquaintance of other Oxford 
students with like interests to his own. Colet, Linacre, 
Grocyn, and Lily, all of whom had drunk deep of the 
new culture of the Renaissance, became his closest 
associates. He engaged with them in friendly rivalry 
in rendering epigrams from the Greek anthology into 
Latin, and he read for himself the works of the great 
Florentine humanist and mystical philosopher, Pico 
della Mirandola, who had absorbed the idealistic teach 
ings of Plato. But spiritual questionings at the same 
time disturbed him. Every day he devoted many 
hours to spiritual exercises. He fasted, he prayed, he 
kept vigils, he denied himself sleep, he wore a shirt of 
hair next his skin, he practised all manner of austerities. 
He gave lectures on St. Augustine's Christian ideal of a 
' City of God ' in a London city church ; he began to 
think that the priesthood was his vocation. 

But before he was twenty-five he had arrived at a 
different conclusion. He resolved to remain at the bar 
and in secular life ; he thought he had discovered a via 
media whereby he could maintain allegiance to his two 
fold faith in Catholicism and in humanism. The breadth 
of his intellect permitted him the double enthusiasm, 
although the liability of conflict between the two was 


always great. While moderating his asceticism, he con 
tinued scrupulously regular in all the religious observ 
ances expected of a pious Catholic. But he pursued at 
the same time his study of Lucian and the Greek 
anthology, of Pico della Mirandola and the philosophic 
humanists of modern Italy. He made, to his own satis 
faction, a working reconciliation between the old religion 
and the new learning, and imagined that he could 
devote his life to the furtherance of both causes at once. 
There was in the resolve a fatal miscalculation of the 
force of his religious convictions. There was incon 
sistency in the endeavour to serve two masters. But 
miscalculation and inconsistency were the moving causes 
of the vicissitudes of Thomas More's career. 


Probably the main cause of More's resolve to adhere 
to the paths of humanism, when his religious fervour 
inclined him to abandon them, was his intro- The influ- 
duction to the great scholar of the European ence of 
Renaissance, Erasmus, who came on a first Erasmus, 
visit to England about the year that More reached his 
majority. Erasmus, a Dutchman about eleven years 
More's senior, became a first-rate Greek scholar when a 
student at Paris, and gained a thorough mastery of all 
classical learning and literature. Taking priest's orders 
he was soon a learned student of divinity, and an en 
lightened teacher alike of profane and sacred letters. 
His native temperament preserved him from any tincture 
of pedantry, and implanted in him a perennially vivid 
interest in every aspect of human endeavour and ex 
perience. Above all things he was a penetrating critic 


a critic of life as well as of literature, and he was able to 
express his critical views with an airiness, a charm, a 
playfulness of style, which secured for his conclusions a 
far wider acceptance than was possible to a more formal, 
more serious, and more crabbed presentation. He was 
an adept in the use of banter and satire, when exposing 
the abuses and absurdities whether of religious or secular 
society of his time. But he met with the usual fate of 
independent and level-headed critics to whom all ex 
tremes are obnoxious, and whose temperament forbids 
them to identify themselves with any distinctly organised 
party or faction. In the religious conflicts of the hour* 
Erasmus stood aloof from Protestant revolutionaries 
like Luther, and from orthodox champions at the Paris 
Sorbonne of the ancient faith of papal Rome. In the 
struggle over the progress of humanistic learning, he 
treated with equal disdain those who set their faces 
against the study of pagan writers, and those who argued 
that the human intellect should be exclusively nurtured 
on servile imitation of classical style. As a consequence 
Erasmus was denounced by all parties, but he was 
unmoved by clamour, and remained faithful to his 
idiosyncrasy to the last In the era of the Renaissance 
he did as much as any man to free humanity from the 
bonds of superstition, and to enable it to give free play 
to its reasoning faculties. 

Erasmus spent much time in England while More's 
life was at its prime, and the two men became the 
Erasmus's closest of friends. Erasmus at once acknow- 
friendship ledged More's fascination. 'My affection 
for More. f or t h e man is so great,' he wrote, in the early 
days of their acquaintance, ' that if he bade me dance a 
hornpipe, I should do at once what he bid me.' Until 


death separated them, their love for one another knew 
no change. Erasmus's enlightened influence and critical 
frankness offered the stimulus that More's genius needed 
to sustain his faith in humanism at the moment that it 
was threatened by his religious zeal. 

Neither More's spiritual nor his intellectual interests 
detached him from practical affairs. His progress at 
the bar was rapid, and after the customary At the Bar 
manner of English barristers, he sought to and in 
improve his worldly position by going into Parliament, 
politics and obtaining a seat in Parliament. He was a 
bold and independent speaker, and quickly made his 
mark by denouncing King Henry vn.'s heavy taxation of 
the people. A ready ear was given to his argument by 
fellow members of the House of Commons, and they 
negatived, at his suggestion, one of the many royal 
appeals for money. The King angrily expressed as 
tonishment that a beardless boy should disappoint 
his purpose, and he invented a cause of quarrel with 
More's father by way of revenge. 


Meanwhile More married. As a wooer he seems to 
have been more philosophic than ardent. He made 
the acquaintance of an Essex gentleman . 

named Colte, who had three daughters, and 
the second daughter, whom he deemed ' the fairest and 
best favoured,' moved affection in More. But the young 
philosopher curbed his passion ; he ' considered that it 
would be both great grief and some shame also to the 
eldest to see her younger sister preferred before her in 


marriage.' Accordingly ' of a certain pity ' he ' framed 
his fancy towards' the eldest daughter, Jane. He 
married her in 1505. The union, if the fruit of com 
passion, was most satisfactory in result. His wife was 
very young, and quite uneducated, but More was able, 
according to his friend Erasmus, to shape her character 
after his own pattern. Teaching her books and music, 
he made her a true companion. Acquiring a house in 
the best part of the City of London, in Bucklersbury, 
More delighted in his new domestic life. He reckoned 
'the enjoyment of his family a necessary part of the 
business of the man who does not wish to be a stranger 
in his own house,' and such leisure as his professional 
work allowed him was happily divided between the 
superintendence of his household and literary study. 
Unluckily his wife died six years after marriage. She 
left him with a family of four children. More lost no 

, time in supplying her place. His second 
His second . c .1 . f .... - 

wife. w " e was a wl dow, who, he would often say 

with a laugh, was neither beautiful nor well 
educated. She lacked one desirable faculty in a wife, 
the ability to appreciate her husband's jests. But she 
had the virtues of a good housewife, and ministered to 
More's creature comforts. He ruled her, according to 
his friend Erasmus, with caresses and with jokes the 
point of which she missed. Thus he kept her sharp 
tongue under better control than sternness and assertion 
of authority could achieve. With characteristic sense of 
humour, More made her learn harp, cithern, guitar and 
(it is said) flute, and practise in his presence every 

More, after his second marriage, removed from the 
bustling centre of London to what was then the peace- 


ful riverside hamlet of Chelsea. There he lived in 
simple patriarchal fashion, surrounded by his children. 
Ostentation was abhorrent to him, but he 

quietly gratified his love for art and litera- f ^uT^ 

at Chelsea. 

ture by collecting pictures and books. 

More prospered in his profession. The small kgal 
post of Under-Sheriff, which he obtained from the 
Corporation of London, brought him into Under- 
relations with the merchants, who admired Sheriff of 
his quickness of wit. The Government was London, 
contemplating a new commercial treaty with Flanders, 
and required the assistance of a representative of 
London's commercial interest with a view to improving 
business relations with the Flemings. More was recom 
mended for the post by a city magnate to Henry vin.'s 
great Minister, Cardinal Wolsey, and he received the 
appointment. Thus, not long after he had fallen under 
the sway of the greatest intellectual leader of the day, 
Erasmus, did he first_come under the notice of the great 
political chieftain. 

But for the present Wolsey and More worked out 
their destinies apart. The duties of the new office 
required More to leave England. For the pi rs t vi s jt 
first time in his life he was brought face to to the 
face with Continental culture. He chiefly Continent, 
spent his time in the cities of Bruges, Brussels, and 
Antwerp, all of which were northern strongholds of the 
art and literature of the Italian Renaissance. More's 
interests were widened and stimulated by the enlight 
ened society into which he was thrown. But he had his 
private difficulties. His salary was small for a man with 


a growing family, and he humorously expressed regret 
at the inconsiderateness of his wife and children in 
failing to fast from food in his absence. 

But, however ill More was remunerated at the 
moment, this first visit to the Continent invigorated, 
Social re- ^ ^ did not create, a new ideal of life, and 
creation at impelled him to offer his fellow-men a new 
Antwerp. counsel of perfection, which, although it had 
little bearing on the practical course of his own affairs, 
powerfully affected his reputation with posterity. At 
Antwerp, More met a thoroughly congenial companion, 
the great scholar of France and friend of Erasmus, 
Peter Giles or Egidius. Versatility of interest was a 
mark of Renaissance scholarship. With Giles, More 
discussed not merely literary topics but also the con 
temporary politics and the social conditions of England 
and the Continent. In the course of the debates the 
notion of sketching an imaginary commonwealth, which 
should be freed from the defects of existing society, 
entered More's brain. 


From Antwerp More brought back the first draft of 
his Utopia. That draft ultimately formed the second 
First draft book of the completed treatise. But the 
of the first and shorter book which he penned 

Utopia. a f ter hi s return home merely served the 
purpose of a literary preface to the full and detailed 
exposition of the political and social ideals which his 
foreign tour had conjured up in his active mind. 

Increasing practice at the Bar, and the duties of his 
Judicial office in the City, delayed the completion of the 


Utopia, which was not published till the end of 1516, a 
year after More's return. 

The Utopia of Sir Thomas More is the main monu 
ment of his genius. It is as admirable in literary form 
as it is original in thought. It displays a 

mind revelling in the power of detachment etac " 
. , . T merit of 

from the sentiment and the prejudices which the 

prevailed in his personal environment. To a 
large extent this power of detachment was bred of his 
study of Greek literature. Plato, the great philosopher 
of Athens, had sketched in detail an imaginary republic 
which was governed solely by regard for the moral and 
material welfare of the citizens. To Plato's republic 
is traceable More's central position. Equality in all 
things is the one and only way to ensure the well-being 
of a community. All men should enjoy equal posses 
sions and equal opportunities. On that revolutionary 
text, which defied the established bases of contemporary 
society, More preached a new and unconventional dis 
course which ranks with the supreme manifestations of 
intellectual fertility. 


The prefatory book of the Utopia is a vivid piece of 
fiction which Defoe could not have excelled. More 
relates how he accidentally came upon his 
scholarly friend Peter Giles in the streets of irst 

Antwerp, in conversation with an old sailor 
named Raphael Hythlodaye. The sailor had lately re 
turned from a voyage to the New World under tne com 
mand of Amerigo Vespucci, America's eponymous hero. 
Raphael had been impressed by the beneficent forms 
of government which prevailed in the New World. He 


had also visited England, and had noted social evils 
there which called for speedy redress. The degradation 
of the masses was sapping the strength of the country. 
Capital punishment was the invariable penalty for rob 
bery, and it was difficult to supply sufficient gibbets 
whereon to hang the offenders. The prevalence of 
crime Raphael assigned to want of employment among 
the poor,, to the idleness and the luxury of the well- 
to-do, to the recklessness with which the rulers engaged 
in war, and to the readiness with which merchants were 
converting arable land into pasture ; villages were laid 
waste and the opportunity of labour was greatly dimin 
ished, in order to fill the coffers of capitalists. Dis 
charged soldiers, troops of dismissed retainers from the 
households of the nobility and gentry, who, after a life 
of idleness, were thrown on their own resources, plough 
men and peasants, whose services were no longer re 
quired by the sheep-farmers, perilously swelled the 
ranks of the unemployed and made thieving the only 
means of livelihood for thousands of the population. 
A more even distribution of wealth was necessary to 
the country's salvation. To this end were necessary 
the enjoyment of the blessings of peace, restrictions on 
the cupidity of the capitalist, improved education of 
the humbler classes, and the encouragement of new 
industries. Crime could be restrained by merciful laws 
more effectually than by merciless statutes. 

This fearless and spirited exposure of the demoralisa 
tion of English society, which is set in the mouth of the 
The ideal sailor from the world beyond the Atlantic, 
of the New potently illustrates the stimulus to thought in 
World. the social and political sphere which sprang 
from the recent maritime discoveries. The abuses 


which time had fostered in the Old World could alone 
be dispersed by acceptance of the unsophisticated prin 
ciples of the New World. The sailor's auditors eagerly 
recognise the worth of his suggestions, and the sailor 
promises to report to them the political and social 
institutions which are in vogue in the land of perfection 
across the seas. He had lived in such a country. He 
had made his way to the island of Utopia when, on 
his last voyage, he had been left behind by his comrades 
at his own wish on the South American coast near Cape 
Frio, off Brazil. 

The second book of More's Utopia describes the ideal 
commonwealth of this imaginary island of No-where 
(Ov TOTTOS), and in it culminate the hopes The Second 
and aspirations of all Renaissance students Book of the 
of current politics and society. The con- Utopia, 
stitution of the country is an elective monarchy, but 
the prince can be deposed if he falls under suspicion 
of seeking to enslave the people. War is regarded as 
inglorious, and no leagues or treaties with foreign powers 
are permitted. The internal economy is of an excep 
tionally enlightened kind. The sanitary arrangements 
in towns are the best imaginable. The streets are 
broad and well watered. Every house has a garden. 
Slaughter-houses are placed outside the wall. Hospitals 
are organised on scientific principles. The isolation of 
persons suffering from contagious diseases is imperative. 

The mind is as wisely cared for as the body. All 
children, whether girls or boys, are thoroughly and 
wisely educated. They are apt to learn, and 
find much attraction in Greek authors, even th ' e mind 
in Lucien's merry conceits and jests. At the 
same time labour is an universal condition of life. 


Every man has to work at a craft, as well as to devote 
some time each day to husbandry, but no human 
being is permitted to become a mere beast of burden. 
The hours of manual labour are strictly limited to 
six a day. A large portion of the people's leisure is 
assigned to intellectual pursuits, to studies which 
liberalise the mind. Offenders against law and order 
are condemned to bondage. But redemption was 
assured bondmen when they gave satisfactory promise 
of mending their ways, and of making fit use of 

Contempt for silver and gold and precious stones is 
especially characteristic of the Utopians. Diamonds 
Contempt an< * pearls are treated as children's play- 
for the things. Criminals are chained with golden 
precious fetters by way of indicating the disrepute 
metals. attaching to the metal. Ambassadors arriv 
ing in Utopia from other countries with golden chains 
about their necks, and wearing robes ornamented with 
pearls, are mistaken by the Utopians for degraded 
bondmen, who among the Utopians are wont to cherish 
in adult years a childish love for toys. 

To find happiness in virtuous and reasonable pleasure 
is the final aim of the Utopian scheme of life. The 

Utopians declare that 'the felicity of man' 
Utopian . . % . 

philosophy. conslsts ln pleasure. But ' they think not, 

More adds, ' felicity to consist in all pleasure 
but only in that pleasure that is good and honest.' 
They define virtue to be 'life ordered according to 
nature, and that we be hereunto ordained even of God. 
And that he doth follow the course of nature, who in 
desiring and refusing things is ruled by reason.' The 
.watchword of Utopia declares reason and reason alone 


to be the safe guide of life. Even in the religious 
sphere principles of reason's fashioning are carried to 
logical conclusions without hesitation or condition. 

The official religion of More's imaginary world is that 
manner of pantheism which assumes the immanence of 
Divine power in the creation, a doctrine 
taught by the Greek Fathers and not re- 
jected by western theologians. But differ 
ences on religious questions are permitted in Utopia. 
The essence of the Utopian faith is 'that there is a 
certain godly power unknown, far above the capacity 
and reach of man's wit, dispersed throughout all the 
world, not in bigness, but in virtue and power. Him 
they call Father of all. To Him alone they attribute 
the beginnings, the increasings, the proceedings, the 
changes, and the ends of all things. Neither give they 
any divine honours to any other than Him.' The 
state organises public worship of such first principles 
about which differences of opinion are barely con 
ceivable. In other regards divergences of view are 

Nowhere indeed has the great doctrine of religious 
toleration been expounded with greater force or fulness 
than in the Utopia. The bases of morality are duly 
safeguarded, but otherwise every man in Utopia is per 
mitted to cherish without hindrance the religious belief 
that is adapted to his idiosyncrasy. Reason, the sole' 
test of beneficent rule, justifies no other provision. 


More wrote his romance of Utopia in Latin, and 
addressed it to the educated classes of Europe. It was 


published at the end of 1516, at Louvain, a prominent 
centre of academic learning. A new edition came four 
Utopia months later from a famous press of Paris, 
published and then within a year the scholar printer, 
on the Froben of Basle, produced a luxurious re- 
- nt - issue under the auspices of Erasmus and with 
illustrations by Erasmus's friend and chief exponent of 
Renaissance art in Germany, Hans Holbein. The 
brightest influences of the new culture pronounced 
fervent benedictions on the printed book, and the 
epithets which the publishers bestowed on its title-page, 
'aureus,' 'salutaris/'festivus'- golden, healthful, joyous 
were well adapted to a manifesto from every sentence 
of which radiated the light and hope of social progress. 

None who read the Utopia can deny that its author 
drank deep of the finest spirit of his age. None can 
question that he foresaw the main lines along which the 
political and social ideals of the Renaissance were to 
develop in the future. There is hardly a scheme of 
social or political reform that has been enunciated in 
later epochs of which there is no definite adumbration 
in More's pages. But he who passes hastily from the 
speculations of More's Utopia to the record of More's 
subsequent life and writings will experience a strange 
shock. Nowhere else is he likely to be faced by so 
sharp a contrast between precept and practice, between 
enlightened and vivifying theory in the study and adher 
ence in the work-a-day world to the unintelligent routine 
of bigotry and obscurantism. By the precept and theory 
of his Utopia, More cherished and added power to the 
new light. By his practical conduct in life he sought 
to extinguish the illuminating forces to which his writing 
offered fuel. 


The facts of the situation are not open to question. 
More was long associated in the government of his 
country on principles which in the Utopia 
he condemned. He acquiesced in a sys- Between 
tern of rule which rested on inequalities _of Utopian 
rank and wealth, and made no endeavour precepts 
to diminish poverty. In the sphere of and More>s 

religion More's personal conduct most con- P ers P al 
. _ . , . , . . . practice, 

spicuously conflicted with the aspirations of 

his Utopians. So far from regarding Pantheism, or 
any shape of undogmatic religion, as beneficial, he lost 
no opportunity of denouncing it as sinful ; he regarded 
the toleration in practical life of differences on religious 
questions as sacrilegious. He actively illustrated more 
than once his faith in physical coercion or punishment 
as a means of bringing men to a sense of the only 
religion which seemed to him to be true. Into his 
idealistic romance he had introduced a saving clause 
to the effect that he was not at one with his Utopians 
at all points. He gave no indication that by the con 
duct of his personal life he ranked himself with their 
strenuous foes. 

The discrepancy is not satisfactorily accounted for 
by the theory that his political or religious views suf 
fered change after the Utopia was written, i^ Utopia 
No man adhered more rigidly through life a dream of 
to the religious tenets that he had adopted fanc y- 
in youth. From youth to age his dominant hope was 
to fit himself for the rewards in a future life of honest 
championship of the Catholic Christian faith. No man 
was more consistently conservative in his attitude to 
questions of current politics. He believed in the 
despotic principle of government and the inevitable- 


ness of class distinctions. But the breadth of his 
intellectual temper admitted him also to regions of 
speculation which were beyond the range of any estab 
lished religious or political doctrines. He was capable 
of a detachment of mind which blinded him to the 
inconsistencies of his double part. The student of 
More's biography cannot set the Utopia in its proper 
place among More's achievements unless he treat it 
as proof of his mental sensitiveness to the finest issues 
of the era, as evidence of his gift of literary imagination, 
as an impressively fine play of fancy, which was woven 
by the writer far away from his own work-a-day world in 
a realm which was not bounded by facts or practical 
affairs, as they were known to him. Whatever the 
effects of More's imaginings on readers, whatever their 
practical bearing in others' minds on actual conditions 
of social life, the Utopia was for its creator merely a 
vision, which melted into thin air in his brain as he 
stood face to face with the realities of life. When the 
dream ended, the brilliant pageant faded from his con 
sciousness and left not a wrack behind. 


Very soon after the Utopia was written, More de 
scended swiftly from speculative heights. His attention 
Dread was absorbed by the religious revolution that 
of the was arising in Germany. He heard with 

Lutheran alarm and incredulity of the attempt of 
revolution. L ut ti erj the monk of Wittenberg, to reform 
the Church by dissociating it from Rome. Like his 
friend Erasmus, More was well alive to the defects in 
the administration of the Catholic Church. The igno- 


ranee ot many priests, their lack of spiritual fervour, 
their worldly ambition, their misapprehension of the 
significance of ceremonies, their soulless teaching of 
divine things, all at times roused his resentment, and 
he hoped for improvement. But in the constitution 
of the great Roman hierarchy, under the sway of St. 
Peter's vicegerent, the Pope, he had unswerving faith. 
It never occurred to him to question the belief in 
the Pope. Against any encroachment on the Pope's 
authority every fibre of his mind and body was prepared 
to resist to the last. From first to last he exhausted 
the language of invective in denouncing the self-styled 
reformers of religion. The enlightened principles of 
reason and tolerance which he had illustrated with 
unmatchable point and vivacity in the Utopia were 
ignored, were buried. As soon as the papal claim to 
supremacy in matters of religion was disputed, every 
pretension of the papacy seemed to take, in More's 
mind, the character of an indisputable law of nature. 
To challenge it was to sin against the light. No 
glimmer of justice nor of virtue could his vision dis 
cover in those who took another view. 

Meanwhile More was steadily building up a material 
fortune and practical repute. His success as a diplo 
matist at Antwerp reinforced his reputation 
as a lawyer in London. He showed gifts of office 
oratory which especially gratified the public 
ear. The King's great minister, Wolsey, anxious to 
absorb talent which the public recognised, deemed it 
politic to offer him further public employment. Un 
expected favour was shown him. His ability and 
reputation led to his appointment to a prominent Court 
office, a Mastership of Requests, or Examiner of Petitions 



that were presented to the King on his progresses 
through the country. The duties required More to 
spend much time at Court, and he was thus brought 
suddenly and unexpectedly into relation with the greatest 
person in the State with the King. 

According to Erasmus, More was ' dragged ' into the 
circle of the Court. ' " Dragged " is the only word,' 

wrote his friend, ' for no one ever struggled 
His attitude , , - , . . ., ,, 

to olitics harder to gam admission there than More 

struggled to escape.' Secular politics always 
seemed to More a puny business. He always held a 
modest view of his own capacities, and despite his 
literary professions in the Utopia, he never entertained 
the notion that from the heights of even supreme office 
could a statesman serve his country to much purpose. 
By lineage he was closely connected with the people. 
No ties of kinship bound him to a privileged nobility. 
He instinctively cherished a limited measure of popular 
sympathy. He desired all classes of society to enjoy to 
full extent such welfare as was inherent in the estab 
lished order of things. Above all, he was by tempera 
ment a conservative. He had little faith in the efficacy 
of new legislation to ameliorate social or political con 
ditions. He had no belief in heroic or revolutionary 
i statesmanship. At most the politician could prevent 
increase of evil. He could not appreciably enlarge the 
volume of the nation's virtue or prosperity. To other 
activities than those of statesmen, to religious and 
spiritual energy and endeavour, More alone looked in 
the work-a-day world for the salvation of man and 
society. 'It is not possible,' he wrote complacently, 
'for all things to be well unless all men are good ; which 
I think will not be yet these many years.' Study of 


precedents, experience, reliance on those religious prin 
ciples which had hitherto enjoyed the undivided allegi 
ance of his countrymen, these things alone gave promise 
of healthful conduct of the world's affairs. It was 
neither a fruitful nor a logical creed, when applied to 
politics, but it was one to which More, despite the 
professions of his imaginary spokesman in his great 
romance, clung throughout his political career with 
unrelaxing tenacity. 

The established principles of absolute monarchy More 
accepted intuitively. He respected the authority of the 

King with a whole heart. Henry vni.'s T 

. , . 11- . His loyalty, 

private character illustrated the inconsistency 

of conduct which prevailed among the children of the 
Renaissance. He could be 'wise, amaz'd, temperate 
and furious, loyal and neutral in a moment.' But there 
was much in Henry vni.'s personality to confirm 
More's instinctive reverence for the head of the State. 
The King was well educated, and encouraged pursuit 
of the New Learning. If he had disappointed the 
hopes of those who, at his succession, prophesied that 
his reign would inaugurate peace and goodwill at home 
and among the nations, he was reckoned to have at 
heart, provided his autocratic pretensions went unques 
tioned, the welfare of his people. His geniality attracted 
all comers, and diverted condemnation of his sensuality 
and tyranny. For the main dogmas and ceremonial 
observances of the Church of his fathers he pro 
fessed reverent loyalty. The King bade More, at the 
outset of his Court career, look first unto God, and 
after God unto the King. Such conventional counsel 
was in complete accord with More's working views of 


More's personal fascination at once put him on inti 
mate terms with his sovereign. His witty conversation, 
his wide knowledge, delighted Henry, who 
favour m S treate d his new counsellor with much famili 
arity, often summoning him to his private 
room to talk of science or divinity, or inviting him to 
supper with the King and Queen in order to enjoy his 
merry talk. At times Henry would go to More's own 
house and walk about the garden at Chelsea with him. 
But More did not exaggerate the significance of these 
attentions. He had no blind faith in the security 
of royal favour. Whatever his respect for the kingly 
office, he formed no exaggerated estimate of the 
magnanimity of its holder. ' If my head should win 
him a castle in France,' More once remarked to his 
son-in-law, ' it should not fail to go.' 

More's ascent of the steps of the official ladder was 
very rapid. He was knighted in the spring of 1521, 
and each of the ten years that followed saw 
ferment^ some advance of dignity. From every direc 
tion came opportunities of preferment. The 
King manifested the continuance of his confidence by 
making him sub -Treasurer of the Household. To 
Cardinal Wolsey's influence he owed one session's 
experience of the Speakership of the House of Com 
mons. He was employed on many more diplomatic 
missions abroad, and in 1525 became chancellor of the 
duchy of Lancaster. 

The smiles of fortune engendered no pride in More. 
The Cardinal expressed surprise that he did not press 


his advantage with greater energy or seek larger 
pecuniary rewards for his service. Independence was 
of greater value to him than wealth or 
titles, and he made the Cardinal often 
realise that he was a fearless if witty critic 
whom no bribe could convert into a tool. 

Had Wolsey foreseen events, he might 'have had good 
ground for fearing More's advancement. Wolsey sud 
denly forfeited the royal favour, and was ^ Iore ma(le 
deprived of his high office of Lord Chan- Lord Chan 
cellor in the autumn of 1529. Six days cellor, 25th 
later on 25th October greatly to More's Oct< I 5 2 9- 
surprise, the King invited him to fill the vacant place. 
The Lord Chancellor is the head of the legal profession! 
in England the chief judge, the adviser of the King in 
all legal business, who is popularly called keeper of the 
King's conscience. More's appointment was an excep 
tional proceeding from every point of view. Lord 
Chancellors, though their business was with law, had 
of late invariably been dignitaries of the Church, who 
in the Middle Ages were the chief lawyers. Doubtless 
the King's motive in promoting to so high an office 
a man of comparatively humble rank was in order to 
wield greater influence over the Chancellor, and to free 
himself of the bonds that had been forged for him by 
Wolsey, whose powerful individuality and resolute ambi 
tion seems to find among modern statesmen the closest 
reflection in Prince Bismarck. 

More's father, Sir John More, was still judge when he 
first occupied the woolsack, and Sir John More and 
remained on the bench till his death a year his father 
later. Sir Thomas's affection for his father as judges, 
was deep and lasting, and during the first year of his 


Chancellorship, while he and his father were both judges 
at the same time, it was the Chancellor's daily practice 
to visit his father in the lower court in order to ask a 
blessing as he passed down Westminster Hall on the 
way to his superior court of Chancery. With like 
humility More bore himself to all on reaching the goal 
of a lawyer's mundane ambition. Nor did his dignities 
repress his mirthful geniality in intercourse either with 
equals or inferiors. 

The King had need of subservient instruments in his 
great offices of State. He was contemplating a great 
The King revolution in his own life and the life of the 
and the nation. He had determined to divorce his 
Reforma- wife, Queen Catherine, and to marry another, 
tion. Anne Boleyn. The purpose was not easy of 

fulfilment. The threatened Queen had champions at 
home and abroad, with whom conflict was perilous. 
Charles v., the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, 
Henry's most persistent rival in his efforts to dominate 
Europe, was his wife's nephew. Divorce was a weapon 
that could only be wielded by the Pope, and it was 
known that the Pontiff was not inclined to forward 
Henry's wish. It was this intricate coil of circumstance 
which encumbered More's great elevation. The clouds 
deepened in the years that followed, and ultimately cast 
the shadow of tragedy over the tenor of More's life. 


Soon after More became Chancellor, the King lightly 
consulted him on the projected divorce. More frankly 
declared himself opposed to the King's design. Henry 


for the time was complacent, and told his new Chan 
cellor he was free to hold his own opinion. But the 
King recognised the existence of no ob- M , 
stacle, however formidable it might prove, view of 
to the fulfilment of his will. No authority, the King's 
not even that of the Pope, was powerful projected 
enough to deflect his settled purpose. To divorce - 
him the conclusion was inevitable that if the Pope 
would not go with him on an errand to which he was 
committed, he must go without the Pope. Th e King's 
An upheaval of the ecclesiastical and political supreme 
constitution of the State which should put power, 
heavy strain on the conscience of a large section of his 
people was a price that Henry was prepared to pay 
with equanimity for the accomplishment of his desires. 
The sanction of the papacy was to be abrogated in his 
dominions, if it failed to accommodate itself to the royal 

Apart from his obstinate faith in his own personal 
power, the King knew that he possessed in the sym 
pathy which the Lutheran movement in x ne growth 
Germany bred among a small class of his sub- of Protes- 
jects a powerful lever which might easily be tantism. 
worked to bring about England's separation from Rome. 
Hitherto he had done what he could to discourage the 
spread of the Lutheran movement at home, and the 
mass of the people had proved loyal to the papacy. 
But controversy respecting the precise grounds of the 
Pope's claim in England to the supreme authority in 
matters of religion had already sown seeds of alienation 
between England and Rome ; were those seeds fostered 
by royal influence, there would be placed in the royal 
hand a formidable weapon of offence. The cry of 


national independence always quickened the people's 
spirit, and it could readily be made the watchword of 
opposition to the papal pretensions. The King's position 
as champion of his people against foreign domination 
was difficult of assault. 

The constitution of the country was, too, easily 
adaptable to Henry's purposes. Parliament, which as 
Hopeless- Y e ' knew little of its strength, was usually 
ness of eager to give effect to a popular King's 
resistance, wishes. His wishes were indeed hardly dis 
tinguishable from commands. As soon as the King's 
mind was made up, it was easy for him to secure Parlia 
mentary enactments which should disestablish the papacy 
in England and abolish its sovereignty. At a word from 
the King, Parliament could be reckoned on to remove 
all the obstacles that papal obduracy put in the way 
of the legal accomplishment of his plan of divorce. 
Officers of State, and indeed the people at large, might 
disapprove of such parliamentary action, but they could 
only stand aside or acquiesce. The King, whose liking 
for More was not easily dispelled, applied no compulsion 
to him either to accept his master's policy or to declare 
his convictions. He was at liberty, he was told, to 
stand aside. 

Neutrality for More on matters touching his innermost 
beliefs was out of the question. For him to remain in 
More's con- office when the Government was irretrievably 
scientious committed to heresy was to belie his con- 
scruples, science. To condemn himself to silence in 
any relation of life was contrary to his nature. Tacitly 
to accept the revolution in religion, which was hence 
forth to identify England with Protestantism, was in 
his eyes a breach of the laws of morality. As soon, 


therefore, as Parliament was invited to set aside papal 
power in England, More retired from his high office. 
He had held the Chancellorship, when he His re 
resigned it in the spring of 1532, for two nation of 
and a half years. In spite of all his early the Wool- 
hopes and ambitions, it was with a pro- sack - 
found sense of relief that he brought his official career 
to an end. 

Loyalty to the King was still a cherished doctrine of 
More's practical philosophy, even when loyalty was 
avowedly in conflict with his principles. The His 
inconsistent attitude of mind was unchange- spiritual 
able till death. To preserve his sense of ambition, 
loyalty from decay now required of him, he perceived, a 
serious effort. The proper course, to his mind, was to 
abstain henceforth from affairs of State, and to keep his 
mind fixed exclusively on spiritual matters. Pitfalls 
encircled him, but he was sanguine enough to believe 
that, despite all that had happened in the past or might 
happen in the future, he might as a private citizen 
reconcile his duty to his God with his duty to his King. 

To Erasmus he wrote on the day of his resignation, 
' That which I have from a child unto this day continu 
ally wished, that being freed from the troublesome 
businesses of public affairs I might live somewhile only 
to God and myself, I have now, by the especial grace of 
Almighty God and the favour of my most indulgent 
prince, obtained.' He told his friend that he was sick 
at heart, and that his physical strength was failing. 
Apprehension of the trend of public affairs shook his 
nerve, but there was no infirmity in his convictions. 



The abandonment of his career meant for More a 
serious reduction of income, and entailed upon him the 

More's need of livin with S reat sim P licit y- He 

impaired adapted his household expenses to his dimin- 
resources. ished revenues with alacrity, but showed the 
utmost consideration for all retainers whom he was com 
pelled to dismiss.* He called all his children together 
and reminded them that he had mounted to the highest 
degree from the lowest, and that he had known all 
manner of fare from the scantiest to the most abundant 
the fare of a poor Oxford student, of a poor law 
student, of a junior barrister, and finally of a great 
officer of state. He hardly knew how far his resources 
would go; he would not at the outset adopt the low 
est scale of living with which youthful experience had 
familiarised him ; he would make trial of the fare to 
which his earnings as barrister had accustomed him ; 
but he warned his hearers that, if his revenues proved 
insufficient to maintain that level of expenditure after a 
year's experiment, he should promptly descend in the 
scale, with risk of a further descent, should prudence 
require it. He jested over the necessity which he 
suffered of selling his plate ; he cheerfully declared that 
a hundred pounds a year was adequate for any reason 
able man's requirements. 

* When dismissing the gentlemen and yeomen of his house 
hold, he endeavoured to find situations for them with bishops and 
noblemen. He seems to have presented his barge to his successor 
in the Chancellorship, Sir Thomas Audley, with the request that 
the new Chancellor would retain in his service the eight bargemen 
who had served his predecessor. 


More's chief interests were for the time absorbed in 
the erection of a tomb for himself in Chelsea Church. 
For the monument he prepared a long T ne 
epitaph, in which he announced the fulfil- Chelsea 
ment of his early resolves to devote his last tomb, 
years to preparation for the life to come. 

From the worldly points of view public or private 
More's premature withdrawal from the office of Lord 
Chancellor was regrettable. The chief duty His work 
of a Lord Chancellor is to act as a judge as Chan- 
in equity, to dispense justice in the loftiest cellor. 
and widest sense. For the performance of such a 
function More had first-rate capacity, and the wisdom 
of his judgments rendered his tenure of the Chancellor 
ship memorable in the annals of English law. He 
worked with exceptional rapidity, and, as long as he 
held office, freed the processes of law from their tradi 
tional imputation of tardiness. On one occasion he 
cleared off the business of his court before ten o'clock 
in the morning. A popular rhyme long ran to the 
effect : 

' When More some time had Chancellor been 

No more suits did remain, 
The like will never more be seen 
Till More be there again.' 

We are told that 'The poorest suitor obtained ready 
access to him and speedy trial, while the richest offered 
presents in vain, and the claims of kindred found no 
favour.' More's son-in-law and biographer, William 
Roper, wrote 'That he would for no respect digress 
from justice well appeared by a plain example of 
[another] son-in-law Mr. Giles Heron. For when Heron 
having a matter before his father-in-law in the Chancery, 


presuming too much of the Chancellor's favour, would 
by him in no wise be persuaded to agree to any indiffer 
ent order, then made the Chancellor in conclusion a 
flat decree against his son-in-law.' 

More took the widest views of his duty, and ignored 
all restrictive formalities. It was not only in his court 
His that he was prepared to dispense justice to 

accessibility the people whom Tie served. ' This Lord 
as judge. Chancellor,' wrote his son-in-law, ' used com 
monly every afternoon to sit in his open hall, to the 
intent, if any person had any suit unto him, they might 
the more boldly come to his presence, and there open 
complaints before him. His manner was also to read 
every bill or cause of action himself, ere he would award 
any subpoena, which bearing matter sufficient worthy a 
subpoena, would he set his hand unto, or else cancel it.' 
Constantly did he point out to his colleagues that 
equitable considerations ought to qualify the rigour of 
the law. 

But high as was More's standard of conduct on the 
judicial bench, he did not escape censure. In the 
Censure of stirring controversy, to one side of which 
his judicial he was deeply committed, every manner of 
conduct. calumnious suspicion was generated. There 
were vague charges brought against him of taking bribes. 
But these hardly admit of examination. More serious 
were the persistent reports that he had used his judicial 
power in order to torture physically those who held 
religious opinions differing from his own. There seems 
little question that at times he endeavoured to repress 
the spread of what he regarded as heresy or irreligion 
by cruel punishment of offenders. ' But the evidence 
against him comes from opponents who were resolved 


to put the worst construction on all he did. His alleged 
acts of tyranny have been misrepresented. He had an 
old-fashioned belief in the value of corporal punishment. 
A boy in his service who talked lightly of sacred things 
to a fellow-servant was whipped by his orders. A mad 
man who brawled in churches was sentenced by him 
to be beaten. He honestly thought that in certain cir 
cumstances physical torture and even burning at the 
stake was likely to extirpate heretical doctrine. The 
fervour of his religious faith inclined him to identify 
with crime obstinate defiance of the ancient dogmas. 
His native geniality was not proof against the consum 
ing fire of his religious zeal. But the ultimate humane 
ness of his nature was not subdued to what it worked in. 


In his retirement, More studied the writings of the 
Protestant controversialists, and sought to meet their 
arguments in a long series of tracts in which M ore 
he expressed himself with heat and vehe- engages in 
mence. He abandoned the Latin language, theological 
in which he had penned his great romance controvers y- 
of Utopia^ and wrote in English in order to gain the ear 
of a wider public. 

The chief object of his denunciation was the Protes 
tant translator of the Bible into English, and the fore 
most of the early champions of the English 
Reformation, William Tyndale. In the on Tyndale. 
opposite camp Tyndale faced, with a resolu 
tion equal to More's, poverty, danger and death in the 
service of what he held to be divine truth. Already in 


the height of his prosperity had More opened fire on 
Tyndale; as early as 1529, the year of his accession to 
the Chancellorship, he had passionately defended the 
cause of Rome against the ' pestilent sect of Luther and 
Tyndale.' Before More's withdrawal from public life, 
Tyndale replied with much cogency and satiric bitter 
ness, although he wrongly suspected More of having 
sold his pen to his royal employer. More, by his retire 
ment from public life, effectively confuted such suspicion. 
When in his time of leisure he renewed the attack on 
the foe, he gave him no quarter. Tyndale's writings 
were declared to be a 'very treasury and well-spring 
of wickedness.' The reformer and friends were of all 
'heretics that ever sprang in Christ's church the very 
worst and the most beastly.' More did not object to 
translations of the Bible into English, provided they 
were faithful renderings. But Tyndale's version of the 
New Testament had (he argued) altered 'matters of 
great weight,' and was only worthy of the fire. Erasmus 
wisely thought his friend would have been more prudent 
in leaving theology to the clergy. It was under stress 
of an irresistible impulse which reason could not mod 
erate that More fanned with his pen the theological 

More's time was fully occupied in his library and 
chapel, and he sought no recreation abroad. He studi- 
More seeks ous ly avoided the Court, where the predomi- 
to ignore nance of the King's new wife, Anne Boleyn, 
political intensified his misgivings of the course of 
affairs. public affairs. But he was discreetly silent 
when friends invited his opinion on political topics. 
His mind, however, was always alert, and his rebellious 
instincts were not always under control. In spite of 


himself he was drawn from his retreat into the outer 
circle of the political whirlpool, and was soon engulfed 
beyond chance of deliverance. 

In J 533> England was distracted by a curious im 
posture. A young woman, Elizabeth Barton, who be 
came known as the Holy Maid of Kent, was More and 
believed to possess the gift of prophecy. She the Maid 
prophesied that the King had ruined his of Kent, 
soul and would come to a speedy end for having 
divorced Queen Catherine. She was under the influ 
ence of priests, who were resentful at the recent turn 
of affairs, and were sincerely moved by the unjust fate 
that the divorced Queen Catherine had suffered. The 
girl's priestly abettors insisted that she was divinely in 
spired, and report of her sayings was forwarded to More. 
He showed interest in her revelations, and did not at 
the outset reject the possibility that they were the out 
come of divine inspiration. He visited her when she 
was staying at the monastery of the order of St. Bridget, 
at Sion, near Isleworth, Middlesex. He talked with 
her, and was impressed by her spiritual fervour, but he 
was prudent in the counsel that he offered her. He 
advised her to devote herself to pious exercises, and not 
to meddle with political themes. He committed him 
self to little in his interview with her. It was, however, 
perilous to come into close quarters with her at all. 
The nation was greatly roused by her utterances, which 
were fully reported and circulated by her priestly friends. 
The new Protestant Minister of the King, Cromwell, 
deemed it needful to take legal proceedings against her 
and her allies. She and the priests were arrested. By 
way of defence they asserted that More, the late Lord 
Chancellor, was one of the Holy Maid's disciples. 


The Minister, Cromwell, sent to More for an explana 
tion ; More repeated what he knew of the woman, and 
Cromwell Cromwell treated his relations with her as 
invites innocent. More soon learned the dishonest 

explana- tricks by which the Maid of Kent's influence 
tions. na( j b een spread by the priests, and he at once 

admitted that he had been the victim of a foolish im 
posture. But at the trial of the Holy Maid of Kent, 
proofs were adduced of the reverence in which More's 
views were held by disaffected Catholics. The King's 
suspicions were aroused. He dreaded More's influence, 
and, in defiance of his personal feeling for him, could 
not bring himself to neglect the opportunity of checking 
his credit which the proceedings against the Holy Maid 
seemed to offer. 

More was charged with conniving at treason through 
his intercourse with the Holy Maid. Summoned before 
The threat a Committee of the Privy Council, he was 
of prose- asked an irrelevant question which was embar- 
cution. rassing. It had no concern with the charges 
of treason brought against him, yet it went to the root of 
the situation. Had he declined to acknowledge the wis 
dom and necessity of the King's abjuration of the Pope's 
authority in England? More quietly replied that he 
wished to do everything that was acceptable to the King ; 
he had explained his views freely to him, and he knew 
not that he had incurred the royal displeasure. There 
the matter was for the moment suffered to rest. But 
very ominous looked the future. The charge of treason 
was not pressed further. Its punishment might have 
been death ; it would certainly have been fine and im 
prisonment. For the time More was safe. The warn 
ing, however, was unmistakable. More's eyes were 


opened to the peril which menaced him. His friend 
the Duke of Norfolk reminded him that the anger of a 
King means death. More received the re- More con . 
mark with equanimity. 'Is that all, my scious of 
Lord?' he answered, 'then, in good faith, his danger, 
between your Grace and me is but this, that I shall 
die to-day, and you to-morrow.' 


Rulers in those days believed that coercion gave ulti 
mate security to uniformity of opinion. Henry was not 
willing to tolerate dissent from his policy, The 
though he bore More no ill-will. On his triumph 
own terms the King was always ready to wel- of Anne 
come his ex-Chancellor's return to the royal Bole y n - 
camp, but he felt embarrassment, which was easily con 
vertible into resentment, at More's remaining in perma 
nence outside. Having now divorced Queen Catherine, 
and married Queen Anne, Henry had caused a bill to be 
passed through Parliament vesting the succession to the 
Crown in Anne's children, and imposing as a test of loy 
alty an oath on all Englishmen, by which they undertook 
to be faithful subjects of the issue of the new Queen. 

Commissioners were nominated to administer this 
oath, and they interpreted their duties liberally. They 
added to it words by which the oath-taker The oath 
abjured any foreign potentate, i.e. the Pope, abjuring 
More was summoned before the new Com- the p P e - 
missioners, at whose head stood Cromwell the Minister, 
and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Cranmer. After 
hearing Mass, and taking the Holy Communion, he pre- 


sented himself to the Archbishop and his fellow Com 
missioners at the Archbishop's Palace of Lambeth. The 
ex-Chancellor was requested to subscribe to the new 
oath in its extended form. The demand roused his 
spirit ; he was in no temper to sacrifice his principles. 
He declared himself ready to take the oath of fidelity to 
the Queen's children, but he declined to go further. 
He was bidden take an oath that impugned the Pope's 
authority. He refused peremptorily. He was told that 
he was setting up his private judgment against the 
nation's wisdom as expressed in Parliament. More 
replied that the council of the realm was setting itself 
against the general council of Christendom. The Com 
missioners were uncertain what step to take next. They 
ordered More for the present into the custody of one of 
themselves, the Abbot of Westminster Abbey, 
detention ^ ne Archbishop was inclined to a compro 
mise. What harm would come of permitting 
More to take the oath with the reservations which he had 
claimed ? The King was consulted ; he also expressed 
doubt as to the fit course to pursue. The new Queen, 
Anne Boleyn, had, however, made up her mind that 
More was a dangerous enemy. At her instance the 
King and his Minister declared that no exception could 
be made in favour of More. By their order he was 
committed to the Tower of London as a traitor, and 
there he remained a prisoner until his death, some fifteen 
months later. An old friend, John Fisher, Bishop of 
Rochester, had of late gone through the same experience 
as More, and he was already in the Tower to welcome 
the arrival of his companion in the faith. 

Lawyers generally doubted whether the oath of fidelity 
to the new Queen's issue, as defined in the Act of Parlia- 


ment, included any repudiation of the Pope ; and Parlia 
ment was invited to solve this doubt by passing a reso 
lution stating that the double-barrelled oath, j^e oath of 
as it had been administered to More and the Act of 
Fisher, was the very oath intended by the Act Succession, 
of Succession. More's position was thereby rendered 
most critical. There was no longer any doubt that he 
was putting himself in opposition to the law of the land. 
Legal definition was given to his offence. A bill of 
indictment was drawn against him ; it declared him to 
be a sower of sedition, and guilty of ingratitude to his 
royal benefactor. 

Adversity as it deepened had no terrors for More. 
His passage from palace to prison did not disturb his 
equanimity. He had already written in verse More's 
of the vicissitudes of fortune. He had repre- resig- 
sented the scornful goddess as distributing nation, 
among men ' brittle gifts,' bestowing them only to amuse 
herself by suddenly plucking them away 

' This is her sport, thus proveth she her might ; 
Great boast she mak'th if one be by her power 
Wealthy and wretched both within an hour. 

Wherefore if thou in surety lust to stand, 
Take poverty's part and let proud fortune go, 
Receive nothing that cometh from her hand. 
Love manner and virtue ; they be only tho, 
Which double Fortune may not take thee fro': 
Then may'st thou boldly defy her turning chance, 
She can thee neither hinder nor advance.' 

There was no affectation in the lines. More wrote from 
his heart. It was with a smile on his lips that he re 
turned Fortune's ugliest scowl. 



In the Tower More's gaolers treated him with kind 
ness. His health was bad, but his spirits were untam 
able, and when his friends and his wife and 
children visited him in his cell his gaiety 
proved infectious. In the first days of his 
imprisonment he wrote many letters, punctually per 
formed his religious duties, and penned religious tracts. 
There was no hope of his giving way. His wife urged 
him to yield his scruples, ask pardon of the King, and 
gain his freedom. He replied that prison was as near 
Heaven as his own house, and he had no intention of 
quitting his cell. His children petitioned the King for 
pardon on the ground of his ill-health and their poverty, 
and they reasserted that his offence was not of malice 
or obstinacy, but of such a long-continued and deep- 
rooted scruple as passeth his power to avoid and put 
away. His relatives were forced to submit to painful 
indignities. They had to pay for his board and lodging, 
and their resources were small. More's wife sold her 
clothes in order to pay the prison fees. 

Henry, under the new Queen's influence, was now at 
length incensed against More. The likelihood of his 
The King mercy was small. Parliament was entirely 
and the under his sway. In the late autumn of 1534 
supremacy yet a new Act was passed to complete the 
of the separation of England from Rome. There 

was conferred on the King the title of Supreme 
Head of the Church in place of the Pope, and that 
title, very slightly modified, all Henry vni.'s successors 
have borne. The new Act made it high treason mali 
ciously to deny any of the royal titles. Next spring 


Minister Cromwell went to the Tower and asked More 
his opinion of this new statute ; was it in his view lawful 
or no ? More sought refuge in the declaration that he 
was a faithful subject of the King. He declined further 
answer. Similar scenes passed in the months that fol 
lowed. But More was warned that the King would 
compel a precise answer. 

More's fellow-prisoner Fisher was subjected to like 
trials, and they compared their experiences in corre 
spondence with each other. More also wrote 

in terms of pathetic affection to his favourite 

r spondence. 

daughter, Margaret Roper, and described the 
recent discussions in his cell. He received replies. In 
the result his correspondence was declared to consti 
tute a new offence ; it amounted to conspiracy. The 
prisoner was unmoved by the baseless insinuation. His 
treatment became more rigorous. Deprived of writing 
materials and books, he could only write to his wife, 
daughter, or friends on scraps of paper with pieces of 

More cheerfully abandoned hope of freedom. He 
caused the shutters of the cell to be closed, and spent 
his time in contemplation in the dark. His 
end was, indeed, near. Death had been made 
the penalty for those who refused to accept the King's 
supremacy. On the 25th June 1535, Fisher suffered for 
his refusal on the scaffold. On the ist July 1535, More 
was brought to Westminster Hall to stand his trial for 
having infringed the Act of Supremacy, disobedience 
to which was now high treason. The Crown relied on 
his answer to his examiners in the prison, and on his 
correspondence with Fisher. He was ill in health, 
and was allowed to sit. He denied the truth of most 


of the evidence. He had not advised his friend Fisher 
to disobey the new Act ; he had not described that new 
Act as a two-edged sword, approval of which ruined 
the soul, while disapproval of it ruined the body. The 
outcome was not in doubt. A verdict of guilty was re 
turned, and More, the faithful son of the old Church 
and the disciple of the new culture, was sentenced to be 
hanged at Tyburn. As he left the Court he remarked 
that no temporal lord could lawfully be head of the 
Church ; that he had studied the. history of the papacy, 
and was convinced that it was based on Divine authority. 
With calm and unruffled temper, More faced the end. 
As he re-entered the Tower he met his favourite daughter 
The fare- wno asked his blessing. The touching epi- 
well to his sode is thus narrated by William Roper, 
daughter. husband of More's eldest daughter, who 
wrote the earliest biography of More : ' When Sir 
Thomas More came from Westminster to the Tower- 
Ward again, his daughter, my wife, desirous to see her 
father, whom she thought she should never see in this 
world after, and alsoe to have his final blessing, gave 
attendance about the Tower wharf where she knew he 
should pass before he could enter into the Tower. There 
tarrying his comming, as soon as she saw him, after his 
blessing upon her knees reverentlie received, she hasting 
towards him, without consideracion or care of her selfe, 
pressing in amongst the midst of the throng and com 
pany of the guard, that with halberds and bills went 
round about him, hastily ran to him, and there openly 
in sight of them embraced him and took him about the 
neck and kissed him. Who well liking her most natural' 
and dear daughterly affecion towards him gave her his 
fatherly blessing and many godly words of comfort be- 


sides. From whom after she was departed, she was not 
satisfied with the former sight of him, and like one that 
had forgotten herself being all ravished with the entire 
love of her father, having respect neither to herself nor 
to the press of the people and multitude that were there 
about him, suddenly turned back again, ran to him 
as before, took him about the neck and divers times 
kissed him lovingly, and at last with a full and heavy 
heart was fain to depart from him : the beholding where 
of was to many that were present so lamentable that it 
made them for very sorrow thereof to weep and mourn.' 


The King commuted the sentence of hanging to that 
of beheading, a favour which More grimly expressed the 
hope that his friends might be spared the , 

need of asking. Early on the morning of the e f. 


6th July he was carried from the Tower to 
Tower Hill for execution. His composure knew no 
diminution. ' I pray thee, see me safely up,' he said to 
the officer who led him from the Tower, up the steps of 
the frail scaffold, ' as for my coming down, I can shift 
for myself.' He encouraged the headsman to do his 
duty fearlessly : ' Pluck up thy spirits, man ; be not 
afraid to do thine office ; my neck is very short.' He 
seemed to speak in jest as he moved his beard from the 
block, with the remark that it had never committed 
treason. Then with the calmness of one who was rid 
of every care he told the bystanders that he died in and 
for the faith of the Catholic Church, and prayed God to 
send the King good counsel. 


His body was buried in the Tower of London. The 
tomb that he had erected at Chelsea never held his 
Preserva- remains. His head was placed, according to 
tion of his the barbarous custom of that day, on a pole 
head by on London Bridge, but his favourite daughter, 
Margaret Margaret Roper, privately purchased it a 
month later, and preserved it in spices till 
her death, nine years afterwards. Tennyson commemo 
rated her devotion in his great poem ' A Dream of Fair 
Women,' where he describes her as the woman who 
clasped in her last trance of death her murdered 
father's head. 

' Morn broaden'd on the borders of the dark 

Ere I saw her, who clasp'4 in her last trance 
Her murdered father's head.' 

The head is said to have long belonged to her descend 
ants, and to have been finally placed in the vault 
belonging to her husband's family in a church at Canter 

More's piteous fate startled the world. His meekness 
at the end, the dignified office which he once enjoyed, 
the fine temper of his intellect, his domestic virtues 
seemed to plead like angels trumpet-tongued against 
the deep damnation of his taking off. To onlookers it 
appeared as if virtue and wisdom in a champion of 
orthodoxy had whetted the fury of a schismatic tyrant. 
To the principle and sentiment of the Catholic peoples 
a desperate challenge had been offered. 'The horrid 
deed was blown in every eye, and tears drowned the 
wind ' of every country of Western Europe. Catholics 
in Europe freely threatened the King (Henry vm.) with 
reprisals. The Emperor, Charles v., declared he would 


have rather lost his best city than such a counsellor. 
The Pope prepared a bull and interdict of deposition 
which was designed to cut King Henry off The recep . 
from the body of Christ, to empower his sub- tion abroad 
jects to expel him from the throne and to cast of news of 
his soul in death into hell for ever. English his deatn - 
ambassadors abroad were instructed, without much 
effect, to explain that More had suffered justly the pen 
alty of the law, and that the legal procedure had been 
perfectly regular. In all countries poets likened him to 
the greatest heroes of antiquity, to Socrates, Seneca, 
Aristides, and Cato. Few questioned the declaration 
of his friends that angels had carried his soul into ever 
lasting glory, where an imperishable crown of martyrdom 
adorned his brow. 


More's devotion to principle, his religious fervour, 
his invincible courage, are his most obvious personal 

characteristics, but with them were com- 

. ... ... , Mores 

bmed a series of qualities which are rarely c h arac ter. 

to be met with in the martyrs of religion. 
There was no gloom in his sunny nature. He was a 
wit, a wag, delighting in amusing repartee, and seeking 
to engage men in all walks of life in cheery talk. It 
was complained of him that he hardly ever opened his 
mouth except to make a joke, and his jests on the 
scaffold were held by many contemporary critics to be 
idle impertinences. Yet his mode of life His mode 
could stand the severest tests ; he lived with of Hfe 
great simplicity, drinking little wine, avoid 
ing expensive food, and dressing carelessly. He hated 


luxury or any sort of ostentation in his home life. At 
Chelsea he lived in patriarchal fashion, with his children 
and their husbands or wives and his grandchildren 
about him. He rarely missed attendance at the Chelsea 
Parish Church, and would often sing in the choir, 
wearing a surplice. He encouraged all his household 
to study and read, and to practise liberal arts. He was 
fond of animals, even foxes, weasels, and monkeys. 
He was a charming host to congenial friends, though 
he disliked games of chance, and eschewed dice or 

At the same time More never ceased to prove him 
self a child of the Renaissance. All forms of Art 

strongly appealed to him. He liked collect- 
, ing curious furniture and plate. ' His house,' 

wrote Erasmus, ' is a magazine of curiosities, 
which he rejoices in showing.' He delighted in music, 
and persuaded his uncultivated wife to learn the flute 
and other instruments with him. Of painting he was 
an expert critic. The great German artist, Holbein, 
was his intimate friend, and, often staying with him at 
Chelsea, acknowledged More's hospitality by painting 
portraits of him and his family. 

As a writer, More's fame mainly depended on his 
political romance of Utopia, which was penned in 

finished Latin. His Latin style, both in 
His Latin , c , .,., , 

writin prose and verse, is of rare lucidity, and 

entitles him to a foremost place among 
English contributors to the Latin literature of the 
Renaissance. His Utopia is an admirable specimen 
of fluent and harmonious Latin prose. With the 
popular English translation of his romance, which 
was first published sixteen years after his death, he 


had no concern. Much English verse as well as much 
Latin verse came from More's active pen. Critics have 
usually ignored or scorned his English 

poetry. Its theme is mainly the fickleness His En S llsh 

r r . - . poetry. 

of fortune and the voracity of time. But 

freshness and sincerity characterise his treatment of 
these well-worn topics, and, though the rhythm is often 
harsh, and the modern reader may be repelled by 
archaic vocabulary and constructions, More at times 
achieves metrical effects which adumbrate 

the art of Edmund Spenser. Of English His English 

T, IT 111 prose, 

prose More made abundant use in treating 

both secular and religious themes. There is doubt as 
to his responsibility for the 'History of Richard in.,' 
which ordinarily figures among his English prose writ 
ings. Archbishop Morton has been credited, 
on grounds that merit attention, with the 
main responsibility for its composition. It 
is an admirable example of Tudor prose, clear and 
simple, free from pedantry and singularly modern in 
construction. Similar characteristics are only a little 
less conspicuous in More's authentic biog- . ,,-./ 
raphy of Pico, the Italian humanist, who, 
like More himself, yielded to theology abilities that were 
better adapted to win renown in the pursuit of profane 

It is, however, by the voluminous polemical tracts 
and devotional treatises of his closing career that 
More's English prose must be finally judged. Contro- 
In controversy More wrote with a rapidity versial 
and fluency which put dignity out of the theology, 
question. Very often the tone is too spasmodic and 
interjectional to give his work genuine literary value. 


In the heat of passion he sinks to scurrility which 
admits of no literary form. But it is only episodically 
that his anger gets the better of his literary temper. 
His native humour was never long repressible, and 
some homely anecdote or proverbial jest usually rushed 
into his mind to stem the furious torrents of his abuse. 
When the gust of his anger passed, he said what he 
meant with the simple directness that comes of con 
viction, unconstrained by fear. Vigour and freedom 
are thus the main characteristics of his controversial 
English prose. 

There is smaller trace of individual style in his books 
of religious exhortation and devotion, but their pious 
His placidity does not exclude bursts both of 

devotional eloquence and anecdotal reminiscence which 
treatises. prove his wealth of literary energy and of 
humoursome originality. To one virtue as a writer 
in English he can make no claim : pointed brevity 
was out of his range. In Latin he could achieve 
epigrams, but all his English works in prose are of 
massive dimensions, and untamable volubility. 

For two centuries after his death More was regarded 
by Catholic Europe as the chief glory of English litera- 
More's ture - ^ n tne seventeenth century the Latin 
literary countries deemed Shakespeare and Bacon 
repute his inferiors. It was his Latin writing that 

abroad. was ma j n iy known abroad. But, even in 
regard to that branch of his literary endeavours, time 
has long since largely dissipated his early fame. In 
the lasting literature of the world, More is only remem 
bered as the author of the Utopia, wherein he lives 
for all time, not so much as a man of letters, but in 
that imaginative role, which contrasts so vividly with 


other parts in his repertory, of social reformer and 
advocate of reason. In English literary history his 
voluminous work in English prose deserves grateful, 
if smaller, remembrance. Despite the many crudities 
of his utterance, he first indicated that native English 
prose might serve the purpose of great literature as 
effectively as Latin prose, which had hitherto held the 
field among all men of cultivated intelligence. There 
is an added paradox in the revelation that one who 
was the apostle in England at once of the cosmopolitan 
culture of the classical Renaissance and of the medi 
aeval dogmatism of the Roman Catholic Church should 
also be a strenuous champion of the literary usage of 
his vernacular tongue. But paradox streaks all facets 
of More's career. 

Few careers are more memorable for their pathos 
than More's. Fewer still are more paradoxical. In 
that regard he was a true child of an era The para- 
of ferment and undisciplined enthusiasm, doxes of 
which checked orderliness of conduct or his career, 
aspiration. Sir Thomas More's variety of aim, of 
ambition, has indeed few parallels even in the epoch 
of the Renaissance. Looking at him from one side 
we detect only a religious enthusiast, cheerfully sacri 
ficing his life for his convictions a man whose religious 
creed, in defence of which he faced death, abounded 
in what seems, in the dry light of reason, to be super 
stition. Yet surveying More from another side we 
find ourselves in the presence of one endowed with 
the finest enlightenment of the Renaissance, a man 
whose outlook on life was in advance of his generation ; 
possessed too of such quickness of wit, such imaginative 
activity, such sureness of intellectual insight, that he 


could lay bare with pen all the defects, all the abuses, 
which worn-out conventions and lifeless traditions had 
imposed on the free and beneficent development of 
human endeavour and human society. That the man, 
who, by an airy effort of the imagination, devised the 
new and revolutionary ideal of Utopia, should end his 
days on the scaffold as a martyr to ancient beliefs which 
shackled man's intellect and denied freedom to man's 
thought is one of history's perplexing ironies. Sir 
Thomas More's career propounds a riddle which it is 
easier to enunciate than to solve. 



' A combination and a form indeed, 
Where every god did seem to set his seal, 
To give the world assurance of a man. ' 

SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet, m. iv. 55-57. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. The earliest attempt- at a biography of 
Sir Philip Sidney was made by his intimate friend, Fulke 
Greville, Lord Brooke, in the Life of the Renowned Sir 
Philip Sidney, which was first published in 1652. It is a 
rambling character sketch, intermingled with much irrel 
evant discussion of English foreign policy. The fullest 
modern biography is by Mr. H. R. Fox-Bourne, which 
was first published in 1862, and afterwards revised for re 
issue in the ' Heroes of the Nations ' series, 1891. Sidney's 
Arcadia, together with his chief literary works, appeared 
in 1598, and the volume was many times reprinted down 
to 1721. An abridgment of the Arcadia, edited by 
J. Hain Friswell, appeared in 1867. An attractive re 
print of Sidney's Astrophel and Stella was edited by Mr. 
A. W. Pollard in 1888, and that collection of poems is 
included in Elizabethan Sonnets (1904), edited by the 
present writer in Messrs. Constable's ' English Garner.' 
The Apologie for Poetrie has been well edited by Prof. 
Albert S. Cook, of Yale (1901, Boston, U.S.A.).] 

THE course of Sir Philip Sidney's life greatly differed 
from that of More's. Sidney held by patrimony a place 


in the social hierarchy which was outside More's ex 
perience. A grandson of a Duke, a nephew of Earls, 
, he belonged by birth to the English aristoc- 
hi hTirth rac y> to tne governing classes of England. 
To some measure of distinction he was 
born. The professions of arms, of diplomacy, of politics, 
opened to him automatically without his personal effort. 
The circumstance of his lineage moulded the form and 
pressure of his career. 

From other springs flowed his innermost ambitions. 
The spirit of the Renaissance imbued his intellectual 
being more consistently than it imbued 
Core's. The natural affinities of Sidney's 
mind were from first to last with great 
literature and art, not with the turmoil of war, or 
politics, or creeds. The Muse of poetry, who scorns 
the hollow pomp of rank, laid chief claim to his 
allegiance. But he was a curious and persistent in 
quirer into many fashions of beauty besides the poetic. 
One part of his energies was devoted to a prose romance, 
which he designed on a great scale; another part to 
prose criticism of a reasoned enlightenment that was 
unprecedented in England. To all manifestations of 
the new spirit of the age he was sensitive. But there 
were contrary influences, bred of his inherited environ 
ment, there were feudal and mediaeval traditions, which 
disputed the sway over him of the new forces of culture. 
The development of his poetic and literary endowments 
was checked by rival political and military preoccupa 
tions. Even if death had spared him until his faculties 
were fully ripened, he seemed destined to distribute his 
activities over too wide a field for any of them to bear 
the richest fruit. He ranks with the heroes who have 


promised more than they have performed, with the 
pathetic sharers ' of unfulfilled renown.' 

Nineteen years after More's tragic death, and ten 
years before the birth of Shakespeare, Sir Philip Sidney 
came into the world. His short life of The central 
thirty-two years covers the central period in period of 
the history of the English Renaissance, which the Renais- 
reached its first triumph in More's Utopia sance - 
and its final glory in Shakespearean drama. Sidney 
died while Shakespeare was yet unknown to fame, 
when the dramatist's fortunes were in the balance, 
before his literary work was begun. 

Interests with which literature had little in common 
distracted the mental energies of the nation between 
the dates of More's execution and of Sidney's 

birth. The religious reformation had been . . r 

. i i stnie. 

carried to a conclusion by coercive enact 
ments, which outraged the consciences of too many 
subjects of the king to give immediate assurance of 
finality. The strong-willed monarch, Henry vin., had 
died, amid signs that justified doubt of the permanence 
of the country's new religious polity. Disease soon 
laid its hands on the feeble constitution of the boy, 
who, succeeding to Henry's throne as Edward vi., 
upheld there with youthful eagerness and extravagance 
the cause of the Reformation. Factions of ambitious 
noblemen robbed the Court of respect, and jeopardised 
the Government's power. The air rang with confused 
threats of rebellion. The succession to the throne 



was disputed on the boy-king's premature death. It 
was no time for the peaceful worship of the Muses. 
Political and religious strife oppressed the England of 
Sir Philip Sidney's infancy, and the circumstances of 
his birth set him in the forefront of the struggle. 

Sidney was a native of Kent, born at Penshurst, in 
an old mansion of great beauty and historic interest, 

which, dating from the fifteenth century, still 
Sidney's stan( j s . His father, Sir Henry Sidney, was 

a politician who had long been busily en 
gaged in politics, mainly in the ungrateful task of 
governing Ireland. His mother was a daughter of the 
ambitious nobleman, the Duke of Northumberland, who 
endeavoured to place his daughter-in-law (of a nobler 
family than his own), Lady Jane Grey, upon the throne 
of England after the death of the boy-king Edward vi. 
The plot failed, and Henry vm.'s eldest daughter, Mary, 
who shared More's enthusiasm for the papacy and his 
horror of Protestantism, became Queen in accordance 
with law. The failure of the Duke's ambitious schemes 
led to his death on the scaffold. Queen Mary's acces 
sion preceded Sidney's birth by a few months, and the 
tragedy of his grandfather's execution darkened his 
entry into life. 

The two critical events the failure of the Duke of 
Northumberland's scheme of usurpation, and Queen 

Mary's revival of a Catholic sovereignty 

were vividly recalled at Philip's baptism, 
baptism. ' . i 

His godmother was his grandmother, the 

widowed Duchess of Northumberland. His godfather 
was the new Catholic Queen's lately married husband, 
Philip of Spain, the sour fanatic, who shortly afterwards 
became King Philip n. It was an inauspicious con- 


junction of sponsors. Both were identified with doomed 
forces of reaction. The ancient regime of Spain, which 
King Philip represented, was already on its downward 
grade. The widowed Duchess was the survivor of a 
lawless and selfish political faction, which had defied 
political justice and the general welfare. Shadows fell 
across the child's baptismal font. A cloud of melan 
choly burdened the minds of those who tended him in 
infancy, and his childish thoughts soon took a serious 

But before his childhood ended, the gloom that hung 
about his country and his family's prospects was light 
ened. The superstitious Queen Mary, having Q uee n 
restored to her country its old religion, died Elizabeth's 
prematurely, and her work was quickly un- accession, 
done by her sister and successor, Queen Elizabeth. 
Fortune at length smiled again on the English throne, 
and the new sovereign won by her resolute temper, her 
self-possession, and her patriotism, her people's regard 
and love. Slowly but surely the paths of peace were 
secured. The spirit of the nation was relieved of the 
griefs of religious and civil conflict. The Muses flour 
ished in England as never before. 

On Sidney's domestic circle, too, a new era of hope 
dawned. His mother's brother, the ill-fated Duke of 
Northumberland's younger son, Robert Dud- Sidney's 
ley, Earl of Leicester, became Queen Eliza- uncle, the 
beth's favoured courtier, and, by a strange Earl of 
turn of fortune's wheel, wielded, despite his Leicester- 
father's disgrace and death, immense political influence. 
Throughout Sidney's adult life his uncle Leicester, 
who, although unprincipled and self-indulgent, had 
affection for his kindred, was the most powerful figure 


in English public life. Such advantages as come of 
a near kinsman's great place in the political world lay 
at Sidney's disposal in boyhood and early manhood. 


The boy was at first brought up at Penshurst, but 
was soon taken further west, to Ludlow Castle. At the 

time his father, in the interval of two terms 
bur "Tool ^ g overnment i n Ireland, was President of 

the principality of Wales, which was then 
separately governed by a high officer of state. Ludlow 
Castle, then a noble palace, now a magnificent ruin, 
was his official residence. Owing to his father's resi 
dence in the western side of England, the boy Philip 
was sent to school at Shrewsbury, which was just 
coming into fame as a leading public school. 

On the same day there entered Shrewsbury school 
another boy of good family, who also attained great 

reputation in literature and politics, Fulke 
Greville Greville, afterwards Lord Brooke. Greville 

was a poet at heart, although involved and 
mystical in utterance. He was Sidney's life-long friend, 
and subsequently his biographer. Greville died forty- 
two years after his friend, but the memory of their 
association sank so deep in his mind and heart that, 
despite all the other honours which he won in mature 
life, he had it inscribed on his tomb that he was 
' Friend to Sir Philip Sidney.' 

Sidney was a serious and thoughtful boy. Of his 
youth his companion, Greville, wrote : ' I will report 
no other wonder than this, that, though I lived with 


him and knew him from a child, yet I never knew 
him other than a man, with such staidness of mind, 
lovely and familiar gravity, as carried grace Sidney's 
and reverence above greater years ; his talk serious 
ever of knowledge, and his very play tend- youth, 
ing to enrich his mind, so that even his teachers found 
something in him to observe and learn above that which 
they had usually read or taught. Which eminence by 
nature and industry made his worthy father style Sir 
Philip in my hearing, though I unseen, lumen families 
sua (light of his household).' Gravity of demeanour 
characterised Sidney at all periods of his life. 

From childhood Sidney was a lover of learning. At 
eleven years old he could write letters in French and 

Latin : and his father gave him while a lad 
, . ......... At Oxford. 

advice on the moral conduct of life which 

seemed to fit one of far maturer years. The precocious 
spirit of the Renaissance made men of boys, and youths 
went to the University in the sixteenth century at a far 
earlier age than now. At fourteen Philip left Shrews 
bury school for the University of Oxford for the great 
foundation of Christ Church, to which at an earlier 
epoch More had wended his way. At Oxford, Sidney 
eagerly absorbed much classical learning, and gathered 
many new friends. His tutor was fascinated by his 
studious ardour, and he too, like Sidney's friend Grev- 
ille, left directions for the fact that Sidney had been 
his pupil to be recorded on his tombstone. As at 
school, so during his college vacations Greville himself 
a student at Cambridge was Sidney's constant com 
panion. The Protestant faith, which Queen Elizabeth 
had re-established, was now the dominant religion, and 
Sidney, at school and Oxford, warmly embraced the 


doctrines of the Reformation. But religious observ 
ances which dated from the older papal regime were 
still in vogue in England, and from one of them Philip 
as an undergraduate sought relief. His health was 
delicate. His influential uncle, the Earl of Leicester, 
was well alive to his promise, and he obtained a licence 
of the Archbishop of Canterbury for the boy to eat 
flesh in Lent, ' because he was subject to sickness.' 

The circumstance that Sidney was the Earl of 
Leicester's nephew placed many other special privileges 
Lord within his reach. It opened to him the road 

Burghley's to the Court, and gained for him personal in- 
favour. troduction to the great statesmen of the time. 
Queen Elizabeth's astute Lord Treasurer and Prime Min 
ister, Sir William Cecil, afterwards Lord Burghley, came 
through Leicester to know of Sidney in his youth, and 
while at Oxford, Philip spent a vacation with the states 
man's family, who then lived near London, at Hampton 
Court. The experienced minister like all who met 
Philip acknowledged infinite attraction in the youth. 
' I do love him,' he said, ' as he were my own,' and he 
was moved by parental sentiment to suggest means 
whereby the lad might become 'his own.' He pro 
posed to Philip's father, after the manner of parents of 
that time, a marriage between his elder daughter and 
the boy. Marriages in the higher ranks of society were 
in those days rarely arranged by the persons chiefly 
concerned. Parents acted as principals throughout the 
negotiations. Fathers and mothers were always anxious 
to marry off daughters as soon as they left the nursery. 
Sons might wait a little longer. The girl in the present 
case was only thirteen. Philip was two years older. 
Money was the pivot on which such matrimonial com- 


pacts turned. But Sir Henry Sidney could not afford 
to make much pecuniary provision for his son. The 
Earl of Leicester did what he could to forward the 
auspicious project. He undertook to provide his 
nephew, Philip, with an income of near 500 a year 
on the day of his marriage with the Prime Minister's 
daughter, and promised something like three times that 
amount at a subsequent period. The discussion went 
far between the parents, but the scheme was ultimately 
wrecked on pecuniary rocks. The girl's father wavered, 
and, on further consideration, thought it well to seek a 
suitor who was richer in his own right. Sidney was 
rejected. The young lady married a wealthier young 
nobleman, the Earl of Oxford, between whom and 
Sidney no love was lost thenceforth. The Earl of 
Oxford was a poet and a lover of poetry, but the new 
culture left no impress on his manners. Boorish and 
sullen tempered, Lord Burghley's new son-in-law assimi 
lated the crude vices of the Renaissance. His nature 
rejected its urbanities. 

Epidemic disease, in days when cleanliness was 
reckoned a supererogatory virtue, devastated at fre 
quent intervals England and Europe. An 
outbreak of the plague at Oxford cut short at 
Philip's career there. Students were scat 
tered in all directions. At seventeen Sidney left the 
University. He did not return to it. His education 
was pursued thereafter in a wider sphere. 


A year later Sidney obtained permission from the 
Queen to travel abroad, for a further period of two 


years. Thereby he gained a more extended knowledge 
of life and letters than was accessible at home. The 

value of foreign travel as a means of educa- 
Foreign ^ Q ^ wag never b e tt e r understood, in spite of 

rudimentary means of locomotion, than by 
the upper classes of Elizabethan England. All who 
drank deep of the new culture had seen 'the wonders 
of the world abroad.' Sidney's keen-witted uncle, 
Leicester, recognized that his nephew, despite his 
promise, was as yet 'young and raw.' The French 
Court was already famed for its courtesy. Thither his 
uncle sent him with a letter of introduction to the 
English Ambassador there, Sir Francis Walsingham. 
Walsingham, a politician of rare acumen, and a man 
of cultivated taste, had fashioned himself on the model 
of Machiavelli, the Florentine. Intercourse with him 
was well qualified to sharpen a pensive youth's intellect. 
Sidney's foreign tour was only destined to begin in 
France. It was to extend to both the east and south of 
, p . Europe. His Parisian experiences, as events 

proved, were calculated to widen his views 
of life and deepen his serious temper more effectually 
than to polish his manners or to foster in him social 
graces. Sidney stayed three months at the English 
Embassy in Paris. He went to the French Court, and 
was well received by the Protestant leaders, the leaders 
of the Huguenots, a resolute minority of the French 
people, who were pledged to convert France at all 
hazards into a Protestant country. Ronsard was the 
living master of French poetry, and Sidney readily 
yielded himself to the fascination of the delicate har 
monies and classical imagery of the Frenchman's muse. 
But while Philip was still forming his first impressions 


of the French capital, Paris and the world suffered a 
great shock. The forces of civilisation seemed in an 
instant paralysed. The massacre of the Protestants in 
Paris by the French Government or the leaders of the 
Catholic majority on St. Bartholomew's j^e St. 
Day (23rd August 1572) is one of those Barthol- 
crimes of history of which none can read omew 
without a shudder. For the time it gave Massa cre. 
new life to the worst traditions of barbarism. Sidney 
was safe at the embassy, and ran no personal risk while 
the fiendish work was in progress. But his proximity 
to this Catholic carnival of blood inflamed his hatred 
of the cause to which it ministered, and intensified his 
Protestant ardour. Until his death every persecuted 
Huguenot could reckon in him a devoted friend*. 

When the news of the great crime reached England, 
Sidney's friends were alarmed for his safety. Lord 
Burghley and Lord Leicester bade Walsing- Depar- 
ham procure passports for the youth to leave ture for 
France for Germany. Religious turmoil Germany, 
the strife of Protestant and Catholic infected Germany 
as well as France, but the scale in Germany seemed 
turning in the Protestant direction, and there was small 
likelihood there of danger to a Protestant traveller. 

In Germany learning of the severest type was, then 
as now, sedulously cultivated. Sidney soon reached 
Frankfort. There he lodged with Andrew The meet- 
Wechel, a learned printer in Hebrew and ing with 
Greek, and gathered under his roof the Languet. 
latest fruit of Renaissance scholarship. Printing still 
a comparatively new art was a learned and a scholarly 
profession, and German printers had earned a high 
repute for disinterested encouragement of classical pro- 


ficiency. A fellow-lodger at this learned printer's 
house was Hubert Languet, a Huguenot controversialist 
and scholar. Languet, a quiet, thoughtful student, was 
fifty-four years old, no less than thirty-five years Sidney's 
senior. But despite the disparity of age, Sidney's 
heart went out at once to the exile from France for 
conscience' sake. The Frenchman on his side was 
attracted by the sympathetic bearing of the young 
traveller, and there sprang up between them a lasting 
and attractive friendship. Languet, Sidney said after 
wards, taught him all he knew of literature and religion. 
From Frankfort, Sidney went on to Vienna, the 
capital of Austria, and the home of the ruler of the 

Holy Roman Empire. There the Renais- 
At Vienna. , . , . l , . , ,. ,. 

sance was held in check by mediaeval tradi 
tion and prejudice, and Sidney's first stay there was 
short. For the moment Vienna was a mere halting-place 
in his progress towards what was the land of promise 
for all enlightened wayfarers. He passed quickly to the 
true home of the Renaissance to Italy, where all the 
artistic, literary, and scientific impulses of contemporary 
culture were still aglow with the fire of the new spirit. 
A v . Most of his time was spent in Venice. That 

city of the sea seemed to him to owe its 
existence to the rod of an enchanter, and cast on him 
the spell of her artistic and intellectual triumphs in 
their glistening freshness. At Venice, Sidney studied 
with characteristic versatility the newest developments 
of astronomy and music. He read much history and 
current Italian literature. He steeped himself in the 
affectations of the disciples of the dead Petrarch, and 
eagerly absorbed the rich verse of the living Tasso. 
He was entertained magnificently by Venetian mer- 


chants. But above all he came to know the great 
Italian painters, Tintoretto and Paolo Veronese, in 
whom Venetian pictorial art, if not the pictorial art 
of the world, came nearest perfection. In all direc 
tions Sidney came to close quarters with contemporary 
culture of the most finished kind. 

The sensual levities of Venetian society made no 
appeal to Sidney, who still took life in a solemn spirit. 
He avoided the pleasures of youth. His 
friends thought him almost too serious, O f" n l 
too sad and thoughtful, for a young man of 
twenty or twenty-one. Sidney admitted that he was 
' more sober than my age or business requires,' and he 
endured patiently the sarcasms of those to whom zeal 
for things of the mind was always a synonym for dul- 
ness and boredom. Although he was a good horseman, 
he was never a sportsman, and the story is told by a 
friend, Sir John Harington, that of the noble and 
fashionable recreations of hawking and hunting, Sidney 
was wont to say that, next to hunting, he liked hawk 
ing worst. The falconers and hunters, Harington pro 
ceeded, would be even with him, and would say that 
bookish fellows such as he could judge of no sports 
but those within the verge of the fair fields of Helicon, 
Pindus, and Parnassus. It was no brilliant jest, but 
the anecdote testifies to the exceptional refinement of 
temper and the independence of social convention 
that Sidney acquired early and enjoyed in permanence. 

Not that' Sidney had keen eyes and ears only for 

what was passing about him in spheres of 

r. T^ I *. ..u . Protestant 

literature and art. Every serious interest that al 

weighed with intelligent men found some 

echo in his being. He was fast gathering political 


convictions on his foreign tour; he was watching nar 
rowly the strife of Protestant and Catholic, and his 
nascent enthusiasm for the future of the Protestant 
religion in Europe, which he identified with the free 
development of human thought, mounted high. 

As the nephew of the Queen of England's favourite, 
Leicester, Sidney could count on a respectful hearing, 
Diplomatic when he enunciated political opinions. Go 
employ- cult English diplomacy honeycombed conti- 
ment. nental courts, and those in close touch at 

home with the English sovereign were credited with an 
exaggerated power over her, which it was to the advan 
tage of foreign potentates to concilitate. Sidney, as his 
continental tour lengthened, and the attractions of his 
personality attained wider recognition, was held to 
reflect something of his uncle's influence and his 
country's glory. When he returned to Vienna from 
Venice, there was talk of his offering himself as a 
candidate for a European throne the vacant throne of 
Poland which was filled by electoral vote. The sug 
gestion came to nothing, but it illustrated the spreading 
faith in his fitness for political responsibilities. Finally, 
in his anxiety to perfect his political experience, he 
accepted an offer of employment as Secretary at the 
English Legation in Vienna. Despite his antipathy to 
sport, he yielded to friendly advice, and learned, in the 
Austrian capital, horsemanship all the intricate graces 
of the equestrian art of the Emperor's esquire of the 

Sidney's friends in England were growing alarmed at 
his long absence on the Continent of Europe. They 
had not yet fully understood him. They feared that 
he might be converted to Catholicism, which in Austria 



had mastered the Protestant revolt, or that he might be 
corrupted by the fantastic vice of Italy. At his friends' 
instance, when three years a goodly part of End O f t he 
his short life had ended, he made his way foreign 
home. On the journey he greatly extended tour - 
his intercourse with scholars who were settled in Ger 
many. At Heidelberg he met the greatest of scholar- 
printers, Henri Etienne or Stephens. Stephens, whose 
name is honoured by all who honour scholarship, after 
wards dedicated to Sidney an edition an editio princess 
of a late Greek historian, Herodian. Sidney returned 
home under the sway of the purest influences that 
dominated the art, literature, and scholarship of the 
Continental Renaissance. His moral sense had tri 
umphed over the current temptations to sensual indul 
gence. His Protestantism was untainted. Only that 
which was of good repute had lent sustenance to his 
mind or heart. 

Settled in England, Sidney, like all young men of 
good family, was formally presented to his sovereign. 
As nephew of the Court favourite, Leicester, 
he was heartily welcomed by the Queen, and 
was admitted to the select circle of her attendants. 
Attached to the Court, he largely occupied his time in 

its splendid recreations. He was at Kenil- 

, . ^11- i T At Kenil- 

worth in 1576 when his uncle Leicester gave wort h 

that elaborate and fantastic entertainment in 
honour of the Queen's visit which fills a glowing page 
in Elizabethan history. It is reasonable to conjecture 
that in the crowd of neighbouring peasants who came 


to gaze at the gorgeous spectacles the decorations, the 
triumphal arches, the masques, the songs, the fireworks 
was John Shakespeare, from Stratford-on-Avon, a dozen 
miles off, and that John brought with him his eldest 
son William, the poet and dramatist whose fame was 
completely to eclipse that of any of the great lords and 
ladies in the retinue of their sovereign. Reminiscences 
of the great fete, with its magnificent pageantry, are trace 
able in a spirited speech of the dramatist's A Midsummer 
Nighfs Dream. They are actual incidents in the scenic 
and musical devices at Kenilworth which Oberon 
describes in his picture of 

' A mermaid on a dolphin's back, 
[Uttering] such dulcet and harmonious breath, 
That the rude sea grew civil at her song.' 

But if Sidney's uncle sought by his splendid shows in 
extricably to entangle the Queen's affections, he failed. 
' Young Cupid's fiery shaft ' missed its aim ; 

' And the imperial votaress passed on 
In maiden meditation, fancy free. ' 

From Kenilworth, Sidney went on a visit with his 
sovereign to another great house, Chartley Castle, the 
owner of which, the first Earl of Essex, was 
Devere'ux. Leicester's successor as the Queen's host. 
The visit exerted important influence on 
Philip's future. There he first met the Earl's daughter 
Penelope, who, although then only a girl of twelve, was 
soon to excite in him a deep, if not passionate, interest. 
It was, however, her father, the Earl of Essex, who, like 
so many other eminent men and women, first fell under 
Sidney's spell. The Earl delighted in the young man's 


sympathetic society, and invited him to accompany him 
to Ireland, whither he went to fill a high official post. 
Sidney's father was once again Lord Deputy of Ireland, 
and Sidney was glad of the opportunity of visiting his 
family. Together he and his new friend crossed the 
Irish Channel. But the journey had an unhappy out 
come. The Earl of Essex was taken ill at Dublin, and 
died immediately after he had landed. His last words 
were unqualified love and admiration for Philip. ' I 
wish him well so well that, if God move their hearts, 
I wish that he might match with my daughter. I call 
him son he is so wise, virtuous, and godly. If he go 
on in the course he hath begun, he will be as famous 
and worthy a gentleman as ever England bred.' 

The Earl's dying wish that he should marry his 
daughter bore wayward fruit ; it was fraught with conse 
quences for which the Earl had not looked. , 
Ai ! ^ c ^ 'Astrophel 

Philip was now a serious youth of twenty- and g t gj la > 

two ; Penelope was only fourteen. Like her 
brother, the new Earl of Essex, who was to succeed the 
Earl of Leicester in Queen Elizabeth's favour, and then, 
after much storm and strife, to sacrifice his life to pique 
and uncontrollable temper, Penelope Devereux was 
impetuous and precocious. She was gifted with a 
coquettish disposition, which was of doubtful augury 
for the happiness of herself and her admirers. Encour 
aged by her dead father's hopes, she sought Philip's 
admiration. He made kindly response. Passion did 
not enslave him. A gentle attachment sprang up 
between them, and Sidney turned it to literary account. 
In accordance with the fashion of the day he began 
addressing to Penelope a series of sonnets, in which he 
called himself ' Astrophel ' and the young girl ' Stella.' 


Nothing came of this courtship except the sonnets. 
Penelope soon married another. Sidney, a few years 
later, also married another. But ' Astrophel,' with full 
approval of his sister and subsequently of his wife, 
never ceased to cultivate a platonic and literary friend 
ship with the daughter of his dead friend, the Earl of 
Essex, both while she was a maid and after she became 
another's wife. He continued to address poetry to 
1 Stella ' till near his death. 

The sonnet-sequence called 'Astrophel and Stella,' 

which owed its being to Sidney's faculty for friendship, 

was probably Sidney's earliest sustained 

>i neys attempt at literature. The collection illus- 
sonnets. r . . 

trates with exceptional clearness the influence 

that the Renaissance literature of France and Italy had 
exerted on him during his recent travels. By these 
sonnets, too, he signally developed a tract of literature, 
which had hitherto yielded in England a barren harvest. 
Though Dante was an admirable sonnetteer, it was his 
successor, Petrarch, in the fourteenth century, whose 
History example gave the sonnet its lasting vogue in 
of the Europe. The far-famed collection of sonnets 

Sonnet. which Petrarch addressed to his lady-love 
Laura generated, not only in his own country but also 
in France and Spain, a spirit of imitation and adaptation 
which was exceptionally active while Sidney was on his 
travels. Early in the sixteenth century two of Henry 
vni. 's courtiers, Sir Thomas Wyatt and the Earl of 
Surrey, had made some effort to familiarise the English 
people with Petrarch's work, by rendering portions of it 
into the English tongue. But the effort ceased with 
their death. Subsequently, in Sidney's youth, the vogue 
of the Petrarchan sonnet spread to France. The con- 


temporary poets, Ronsard, Du Bellay, and their associ 
ates, wrote thousands of sonnets on the Italian model. 
It was in France that Sidney practically discovered the 
sonnet for England anew. He, like two other poets of 
his own generation, Thomas Watson and Edmund 
Spenser, who essayed sonnetteering about the same 
time, gained his first knowledge of the sonnet from the 
recent French development of it, with which his visit to 
Paris familiarised him, rather than from the original 
Italian source, of which he drank later. Not that 
Sidney did not quickly pass from the examples of France 
to the parent efforts of Italy, but it was France, as the 
undertone of his sonnets proves, that gave the first spur 
to Sidney's sonnetteering energy. The influence of 
Ronsard is at least as conspicuous as that of Petrarch, 
and of Petrarch's sixteenth-century disciples in Italy. 
But, in whatever proportions the inspiration is to be 
precisely distributed between France and Italy, nearly 
all of it came from the Continent of Europe. Sidney's 
endeavour quickly acquired in England an extended 
vogue, and thereby Sidney helped to draw Elizabethan 
poetry into the broad currents of continental culture. 

The sonnet of sixteenth-century Europe was steeped 
in the Platonic idealism which Petrarch had first con 
spicuously enlisted in the service of poetry. 
Earthly beauty was the reflection of an 
eternal celestial type, and the personal ex 
periences of the sonnetteer were 'subordinated to the 
final aim of celebrating the praises of the immortal 
pattern or idea of incorporeal beauty. The path of the 
sonnetteer as defined by the Petrarchists disciples of 
Petrarch in Italy and France was bounded by a series 
of conventional conceits, which gave little scope to the 


writer's original invention. Genuine affairs of the heart, 
the uncontrollable fever of passion, could have only 
remote and shadowy concern with the misty idealism 
and hyperbolical fancies of which the sonnet had to 
be woven. Sidney's addresses to 'Stella' follow with 
fidelity Petrarch's archetypal celebration of his love for 
Laura. Petrarchan idealism permeates his imagination. 
The far-fetched course, which the exposition of his 
amorous experience pursues, is defined by his reading 
in the poetry of Petrarch, and of Petrarch's French and 
Italian pupils. His hopes and fears, his apostrophes to 
the river Thames, to sleep, to the nightingale, to the 
moon, and to his lady-love's eyes, sound many a sweet 
and sympathetic note, but most of them echo the 
foreign voices. At times Sidney's lines are endowed 
with a finer music than English ears can detect in the 
original harmonies, but he nearly always moves in the 
circle of sentiment and idea which foreign effort had 
consecrated to the sonnet. To the end he was loyal to 
his masters, and he closes his addresses to ' Stella ' in 
Petrarch's most characteristic key. In his concluding 
sonnet he adapts with rare felicity the Italian poet's 
solemn and impressive renunciation of love's empire : 

' Leave me, O love, which readiest but to dust, 
And thou, my mind, aspire to higher things.' 

Perfect sincerity and sympathy distinguish Sidney's final 
act of homage to the greatest of his poetic masters. 

None of Sidney's poetic fellow-countrymen assimilated 
The metre more thoroughly the manner or matter of their 
of the poetic tutors. In metrical respects especially, 

sonnets. Sidney showed as a sonnetteer far greater 
loyalty to foreign models than any of the Elizabethan 


sonnetteers who succeeded him. Almost all his suc 
cessors, while they endeavoured to reproduce the 
foreign imagery and ideas, ignored foreign rules of 
prosody. Sidney sought to reproduce the foreign 
metres as well as the foreign imagery and ideas. In 
gradually unfolding the single idea which the true 
sonnet develops, he knew the value of quatrains and 
tercets linked together by interlaced rhymes. He saw 
the danger of incoherence or abruptness in the accepted 
English habit of terminating the poem by a couplet, in 
which the rhymes were unconnected with those pre 
ceding it. Five rhymes, variously distributed (not seven 
rhymes, after the later English rule), sufficed for the 
foreign sonnet, and Sidney proved that a close student 
of foreign literature could work out an English sonnet 
under like restriction without loss of energy. 

Sidney's sonnets were in his lifetime circulated only 
in manuscript. They were first published five years 
after his death. Whether in manuscript or influence 
in print they met with an extraordinarily of his 
enthusiastic reception, and stimulated son- sonnets, 
netteering activity in Elizabethan England to an extent 
which has had no parallel at later epochs. 'Stella,' 
Sidney's poetic heroine, received in England for a 
generation homage resembling that which was accorded 
in Italy to Laura, Petrarch's poetic heroine, whose linea 
ments she reflected. Apart from considerations of 
poetic merit, Sidney's sonnets form an imposing land 
mark in the annals of English literature, by virtue of 
the popularity they conferred on the practise of penning 
long series or sequences of sonnets of love. Their 
progeny is legion. In all ranks of the literary hierarchy 
their issue abounded. Sidney's efforts were the moving 


cause of Spenser's collection of ' Amoretti,' and it is 
more important to record that to their example stands 
conspicuously indebted the great sonnetteering achieve 
ment of Shakespeare himself. 


The composition of Sidney's sonnets was pursued 
amid the practical work of life. It was never his 
No pro- ambition nor his intention to become a 
fessional professional poet and man of letters. His 
poet. devotion to literature shed its glow over all 

his interests. But his most active energies were ab 
sorbed by other than literary endeavours. 'The truth 
is,' wrote his friend Greville, ' his end was not writing, 
even while he wrote, nor his knowledge moulded for 
tables and schools but both his wit and understanding 
bent upon his heart, to make himself and others, not in 
words or opinion, but in life and action, good and great.' 

Like all young men of his rank and prospects, 
Sidney proposed to devote the main part of his career 
to the public service. An early opportunity 
ambitions. ^ g rat ify m g his wish seemed to offer. Early 
in 1577, while he was no more than twenty- 
three, an active political career appeared to await his 
will. He was entrusted with a diplomatic mission, 
which, although it was of an elementary type, put no 
small strain on his youthful faculties. He was. bidden 
carry messages of congratulation from Queen Elizabeth 
to two foreign sovereigns, both of whom had just suc 
ceeded to their thrones, the Elector Palatine at Heidel 
berg, and the new Emperor Rudolph n. at Prague. 


Sidney threw himself into his work with vigour and 
enthusiasm with more vigour indeed than was habitual 
to the hardened politician. He would do more than 
the mere bloodless work which diplomacy required of 
him. He would break a lance for his personal principles 
as well as carry out his sovereign's commands. He 
endeavoured to influence the policy and aspirations of 
the rulers of the countries that he visited. It was in 
discretion on the part of an ambassador which was 
likely to breed trouble. 

In Heidelberg, the capital city of the Elector 
Palatine's Protestant state, the people were divided 
between Lutherans and Calvinists, and the At Heidel- 
two parties were at deadly enmity with one berg and 
another. Sidney urged on both sides the Vienna, 
need of reconciliation, but neither approved with any 
warmth the interference of a foreigner. Throughout 
Germany he urged on rulers the formation of a great 
Protestant league to stem the spread of Catholic 
doctrine. At the Catholic Court of Vienna, where he 
had already accepted frequent hospitalities and was 
held in high esteem, he slightly changed his tone. 
While he sought to consolidate and unify the Protestant 
views of Europe, he desired to sow dissension among 
the Catholic powers. He lectured the newly crowned 
Emperor on the iniquities of Spain and Rome, and 
urged on him the duty of forming another league, a 
great league of nations to resist Spanish and Romish 
tyranny. He was listened to civilly, if not with serious 

A more grateful experience befel him before he re 
turned home. On his way back to England he was 
ordered by the Queen's Government to visit Antwerp, 


that city which had been the parent of More's Utopia, 

in order to congratulate the Protestant prince and 

general, William the Silent, Prince of Orange, 

At on the birth of a son. It was not only his 

Antwerp. J 

own cultured fellow-countrymen nor the 

poets and artists of foreign lands who felt the spell of 
Sidney's character. The great Dutch leader, the taciturn 
master of the supreme arts of strategy in peace and war, 
was captivated by the young Englishman's fervour and 
intelligence. Sidney exerted on him all the fascination 
which Lord Burghley and the Earl of Essex had acknow 
ledged. The Prince of Orange, who was reputed never 
to speak a needless word, declared that the Queen of 
England had in Sidney one of the greatest and ripest 
counsellors that could be found in Europe. 

Despite some characteristic display of youthful im 
petuosity which escaped Prince William's notice, the 

tour greatly added to Sidney's reputation. 
His success* 

The Queen's Secretary, Walsingham, wrote 

to Sidney's father in Ireland on the young man's 
return : ' There hath not been any gentleman, I am 
sure, these many years, that hath gone through so 
honourable a charge with as good commendations as he.' 
Sidney's energy and activity were now untamable. 
' Life and action ' were now all in all to him. He put 
His no limits to the possibilities of his achieve- 

views on ment. He believed himself capable of 
Ireland. solving the most perplexing of political 
problems. His father, who was a liberal and tolerant 
statesman, was distracted by the difficulties inseparable 
from Irish rule. With the self-confidence that came of 
the laudations of the great, Sidney thought to aid him 
by writing in detail on the perennial problem. He had 


faith in the justice of his father's methods of government, 
which were called in question by selfish time-servers 
in high places. Philip pointed to the dangers of the 
arrogant pretensions of the Anglo-Irish nobility, immi 
grants from England, who dominated the native popu 
lation. He recommended equality of taxation. He 
showed a reasonable interest in the native Irish which 
few other Elizabethans admitted, and avowed small 
sympathy with the Irish landlord, deference to whose 
selfish claims habitually guided the home policy. But 
Sidney was preaching to deaf ears, and was merely 
jeopardising his chances of advancement. 


No regular work in the service of the state was offered 
Sidney. Without official occupation at Court, he had 
no opportunity there of bending his wit and Varied 
understanding to the exploits of 'life and occupa- 
action ' for which he was yearning. He was tions - 
impelled to seek compensation in those intellectual 
interests which his temperament, despite his professions 
to the contrary, would never allow him to forgo entirely. 
For the entertainment of the Queen, when she was 
paying another visit to his uncle Leicester, he wrote a 
crude masque of conventional adulation, called 'The 
Lady of the May.' The slender effort abounds in 
classical conceits, and seeks to satirise classical pedantry. 
It gives no promise of dramatic faculty. The little 
piece has, however, historic value, because Shakespeare 
read it, and partly assimilated it in his Lovers Labour's 
Lost, In other directions Sidney gave fuller scope to 


his cultured intelligence. He sought friends amongst 
poets, painters, musicians, and engineers (or mechan 
icians), and he showed stimulating sympathy with their 
work and ambition. It was with men of letters that he 
found himself most at home, and with the greatest 
Elizabethan poet of all who were the fore-runners of 
Shakespeare he formed, by a fortunate chance, at a 
midmost point of his adult life, a memorable friendship, 
which increases the dignity and interest of his career. 

Sidney was often at his uncle Leicester's house in 
London, and there Edmund Spenser, the poet and 
Friendship moralist of the Faerie Queene, was employed 
with for a time in a secretarial capacity. The two 

Spenser. men me t } and a warm affection at once 
sprang up between them. Spenser was Sidney's senior 
by two years ; when they became acquainted with one 
another in 1578, Sidney was twenty-four, Spenser was 
twenty-six. It was the younger man whom the elder at 
first hailed as master : Spenser was anxious to rank as 
Sidney's admiring disciple. But the means he took to 
announce this relationship put each man in his rightful 
place. Spenser's first published work that book which 
heralded the great Elizabethan era of literature the 
Shepheards Calender^ is distinguished by a dedication to 
Sidney, 'the president,' Spenser calls him, 'of nobleness 
and chivalry.' The patron recognised that he thereby 
received more honour than he could confer. Of all 
reputations the one that Sidney most vauled was that of 
association with the noblest figure in the literature of 
his day. 

Other men of letters, prominent among whom was 
the courtier poet, Sir Edward Dyer, joined Sidney and 
Spenser in social intercourse at Leicester House. The 


nights were passed in eager literary debate. The 
company formed itself into a literary club, all mem 
bers of which were fired with literary zeal -j^e liter- 
with zeal for creating an English literature ary club 
that should compete with the best that of ' The 
the Continent had yet produced. A like Areopagus.' 
ambition had fired a band of Frenchmen of the previous 
generation, when returning from travel in Italy. A like 
ambition had led to the formation in France of that 
little regiment of cultured lyric poets which christened 
itself 'La Pleiade.' As in France so in England, the 
poetic pioneers lay under the spell of the great classical 
literature, knowledge of which had lately reached them 
from Italy. The future of literature depended, they 
erroneously believed, on the closeness with which it 
fashioned itself on classical models. Classical style, 
classical expression, was the philosopher's stone which 
could convert the dross of the vernacular into literary 
gold. At the club, vhich met at Leicester House, and 
bore the classical title of ' The Areopagus,' the members 
were dazzled for the time by this perilous theory. They 
committed themselves to the heretical belief that rhyme 
and accent, the natural concomitants of English verse, 
were vulgar and unrefined. It was incumbent on the 
new poets, if they would attain lasting glory, to accli 
matise in English poetry the Latin metre of quantity, 
which the genius of Virgil and Horace had ennobled. 

The principle which underlay this endeavour was mis 
conceived, and only required to be practically applied 

to be convicted of impotence. Modern 

.. . , . ., . , . , Classical 

literature might well assimilate classical metres> 

ideas, but classical prosody or syntax had no 

juster place in a modern language than a Greek chiton 


or a Roman toga in a modern wardrobe. Sidney, like 
fellow-members of the Club, experimented in English 
sapphics and hexameters and elegiacs, but the uncouth 
results brought home to genuine lovers of poetry that 
the movement was marching in a wrong direction. 
When, after a year's trial, Sidney's literary club was 
dissolved, English poetry was proving beyond risk of 
doubt that accent and rhyme were its only instruments 
of work, and that the classical fashions of prosody or 
syntax were barbarisms outside the ancient languages of 
Rome or Greece. Versatility of interest was character 
istic of Sidney and his friends. It had suddenly led 
them into error, but it led them out again with almost 
equal celerity. 

Hereditary rank combined with his individual tastes 
and character to facilitate Sidney's assumption of a 
Intercourse leader's place in the intellectual society of 
with London. At the same time Sidney steadily 

Bruno. maintained his interest in the literary efforts 
of continental Europe. Insularity was foreign to the 
literary spirit of the Elizabethan age. Especially did 
Sidney and his associates cherish that fraternal feeling 
which binds together literary workers of all races and 
countries. His breadth of intellectual sympathy comes 
into peculiar prominence in the reports of the reception 
which he and his friends accorded to the Italian phi 
losopher, Giordano Bruno, on his visit to London in 
1584. At the house of his friend Fulke Greville, 
Sidney and Bruno often met. Together they discussed 
moral, metaphysical, mathematical, and scientific specu 
lations. The Italian poured into Sidney's eager ears 
Galileo's new proofs of the Copernican doctrine that the 
earth moves round the sun. No teacher could have 


found a more receptive pupil. Bruno proved his 
regard for Sidney's sympathetic attention by dedicating 
to him two of his best known speculative works, and 
thus linked his name with the most advanced thought 
of the Renaissance. Not that Sidney meekly accepted 
Bruno's opinions. Sidney's faith in Christianity was not 
easily shaken. With Christianity Bruno had small con 
cern. His philosophy was the philosophy of doubt. 
Like the Utopians of Sir Thomas More, Bruno was 
a vague Pantheist, to whom the truths of orthodox 
Christianity did not appeal. A fearless thinker, he was 
ultimately burnt with revolting brutality as a heretic at 
Rome in 1600. Religious toleration came naturally to 
Sidney's active and inquisitive mind. He gave Bruno's 
religious opinions courteous consideration. They 
deeply interested him. But he did not adopt them. 
He zealously cultivated independence of mind, and, as 
if to prove his equable temper, at the same time he was 
debating the bases 6f religion with Bruno he was 
translating a perfectly orthodox treatise on the Christian 
religion by a distinguished French Protestant friend, De 
Mornay. When De Mornay visited London, Sidney 
was no less profuse in hospitality to him than to Bruno. 
Every man of intellectual tastes attracted him, but he 
was steadfast to his own conviction, and was not hastily 
led away by novel speculation, even if he were fascinated 
by the charm of exposition which hovered on its in 
ventor's lips. 


To another form of literary endeavour Sidney's 
attention was diverted somewhat against his will. 


English Drama was still in its infancy. Comedy 

had not yet emerged from the shell of horseplay and 

burlesque and rusticity ; genuine humour 

Sidney and genuine romance was to develop later, 
the Drama. 

Tragedy was still a bombastic presentment of 

blood and battle, of barbarous and sordid crime. But 
the embryonic Drama was encouraged by men of en 
lightenment, and by none so warmly as by the cultured 
leaders of the aristocracy. To the leisured classes any 
new form of recreation is welcome, and the drama 
could adapt itself to all gradations of literary taste 
among its patrons. The acting profession in England 
was first organised under the protection of the nobility. 
Like other great noblemen, Sidney's uncle Leicester 
took under his patronage a band of men who went 
about the country engaged in rudimentary dramatic 
performances. The company of actors called itself the 
Earl of Leicester's men or his servants. It ultimately 
developed into that best of all organised bands of 
Elizabethan actors which was glorified by Shakespeare's 
membership. Sidney interested himself in the company 
of players which was under the patronage of his uncle. 
He stood godfather to the son of one of its leaders, a 
very famous comic actor, Richard Tarleton one of the 
earliest English actors whose name has escaped oblivion. 
But there was nothing individual in Sidney's attitude to 
actors. His attitude was the conventional one of his class. 
Despite the favour of the great, the prospects of the 
Drama in England in those days of infancy were critical 

and uncertain. It was a new development 
Puritan . 

attacks. m En g lan <3> and had little but its novelty to 

recommend it. Its artistic future was unfore 
seen. Its earliest manifestation, too, excited the fears 


and animosity of the growing Puritan sentiment of the 
country. To the delight in Art which the Renaissance 
encouraged, the Puritan feeling, when once roused, was 
mortally opposed. Puritanism was in fact a reactionary 
movement against the delights in things of the sense 
which the study of ancient literature fostered. Puritan 
ism was impatient of the current culture. It viewed all 
recreation with distrust, and detected in most forms of 
amusement signs of sin. Especially did the Drama, the 
most recent outcome of the Renaissance of paganism, 
rouse ugly suspicions in the Puritan minds. Its lawful 
ness in a Christian commonwealth was doubted. Con 
troversy arose as to whether or no the Drama was an 
emanation of the devil : whether or no the theatre was 
to be tolerated by members of Christ's Church. 

The Puritan attack was bitter and persistent. The 
Puritan champions sought recruits from all ranks of 
society, and were anxious to divert from the Stephen 
new-born theatre the favour of the nobility. Gosson 
Their fanaticism lent them strength. Their seeks 
methods were none too scrupulous. Sidney Sidney's 
was known to be of serious temper ; he was su PP or 
held in esteem in fashionable society. His countenance 
was worth the winning for any cause. Accordingly one 
of the most outspoken of the Puritan controversialists 
one of the warmest foes of the budding Drama en 
deavoured, by a device that had nothing but boldness 
to excuse it, to press Sidney's influence into his service. 
Without asking Sidney's leave, Stephen Gosson, who 
had once been himself a writer of plays and now wrote 
with the fury of an apostate, dedicated to Sidney a viru 
lent invective, or libel, on plays, players, and dramatists, 
which he called The School of Abuse. He affected to 


take for granted Sidney's sympathy. To him he dedi 
cated his diatribe, and paraded his name in the preface 
of the book as an illiberal foe of dramatic literature. 

The misrepresentation of Sidney's sentiment was un 
blushing. Sidney's soul rebelled against the obscurantist 
Sidney's views to which the pamphleteer committed 
resent- him. One might have as justly dedicated to 
ment. Sir Thomas More a Lutheran tract, and 

credited him with enthusiasm for the doctrines of 
Luther. No truce was possible between Sidney and 
one who failed to see in the Drama which Greeks and 
Romans had especially dignified an honoured branch of 
literature. Sidney retaliated with spirit. Turning the 
tables on the offending author, he set to work on an 
enlightened defence of the Drama. The essay, which 
he called An Apologie for Poetrie, embodied his firmest 
convictions on the value to life of literature and works 
of imagination. 

Sidney's retort to Gosson went far beyond its imme 
diate purpose. He did much more than expound the 
The worth of the Drama. The Drama was for 

Apologie him one of many manifestations of poetry. 
for Poetne. ft was ^ o th e defence of the whole poetic art 
that he bent his energies. In an opening paragraph he 
calls himself a 'piece of a logician,' and it is a logical 
mode of argument that he pursues. Nowhere is the fine 
quality of Sidney's intellect seen to better advantage. 
Nowhere else does he illustrate with equal liberality the 
breadth of his literary sympathies or his instinct for 
scholarship. He had studied not only the critical phi 
losophy of Aristotle, together with Plato's general dis 
cussions of the merits and defects of poetry, but had 
steeped himself in the elaborate criticism of the Renais- 


sance scholars, Minturno and Julius Caesar Scaliger, 
who had in their treatises, named respectively 'De 
Poeta ' and ' Poetice,' attempted, in the middle of the 
sixteenth century, to codify anew the principles and 
practices of poetry. 

Despite the extent and variety of his sources of learn 
ing, Sidney retained full mastery of his authorities, and 
welds them together with convincing effect. The catho 
licity of his literary taste preserved him from Freedom 
pedantry. A popular ballad sung with from 
heartiness roused him as with a trumpet, pedantry, 
while the gorgeous eloquence of Pindar could do no 
more. Sidney wrote with lucidity. His style is coloured 
by his enthusiasm for all that elevates the mind of man. 
Nearly two centuries and a half later, Shelley, in emula 
tion of Sidney, wrote another Defence of Poetry, where 
the poet's creed was again defined in language of singu 
lar beauty. No higher testimony to Sidney's suggestive 
force or influence can be offered than the fact that his 
tract should have engendered in Shelley's brain offspring 
of so rare a charm. 

Sidney's central proposition, to which all sections of 
the treatise converge, is that poetry is the noblest of all 

the works of man. Philosophy and history 

e i_ u j -j r The worth 

are for the most part mere handmaidens of of poetn , 

poetry, which is the supreme teacher, and 
ranks as a creative agent beside Nature herself. To the 
ordinary matter-of-fact intellect of every age such a 
claim on behalf of poetry is barely intelligible. That 
poetry is a ' deep thing, a teaching thing, the most surely 
and wisely elevating of human things,' is an assertion 
that sounds whimsical in the ears of the multitude of all 
epochs. It represents a faith whose adherents in every 


era have been few. Sidney gave reasons For it with 
exceptional sincerity and logical force. In Elizabethan 
England the tendency to accept the belief was perhaps 
more widely disseminated than at any other period of 
English history. Certainly Sidney's words seem to have 
fallen on willing ears, and widened the ranks of the 

In details Sidney's Apologie for Poetrie lies open to 
criticism. He underrated the value of poetic expression 
Confusion an ^ poetic form. Poetry embraced for him 
between every exercise of the imagination. Matter 
poetry and was for him more valuable than manner, 
prose. 'Verse,' he wrote, 'is but an ornament, and 

no cause to poetry;' prose might consequently be as 
effective a vehicle of poetry as metrical composition. 
Though his main contention that poetry is the supreme 
teacher is not materially affected by the misconception, 
Sidney here falls a victim to a confusion of terms. The 
place of expression in poetry is over-estimated when it is 
argued that it counts alone. But expression is the main 
factor. The functions of poetry and prose lie, too, for 
the most part, aloof from one another. Neither theory 
nor practice justifies a statement of their identity, even 
though on occasion they may traverse the same ground. 
Things of the mind are the fittest topic of prose which 
seeks to supply knowledge. Things of the emotions are 
the fittest topic of poetry which seeks to stimulate feel 
ing. Prose is under no obligation to appeal to aught 
beside the intellect ; poetry is under a primary obliga 
tion to appeal to the emotions and to the sense of 

In one other respect Sidney disappoints us. After he 
has enumerated and defined with real insight the vari- 


ous known classes of poetic effort, he offers an esti 
mate of the past, present, and future position of English 
poetry. His commendations of Chaucer, Misunder- 
Surrey, and his friend Spenser satisfy a standings 
reasonable standard of criticism. But his in- about 
sight fails him in his comments on the literary English 
prospects of the English Drama. Rever- P etr y- 
ence for Aristotle's laws, as they were developed by the; 
classicists of the Renaissance, shackles his judgment, i 
He ridicules the failure to observe the primeval unity of 
action or the later classical unities of place and time. 
He warmly denounces endeavours to echo in a single 
play the voices of comedy and tragedy. Tragi-comedy 
he anathematises. An obstinate conservatism mingled 
with his liberal sympathies and led him at times to 
confuse progress with anarchy. Sidney wrote before 
Elizabethan effort had proved the capacity of forms 
of dramatic art of which classical writers had not 

But if Sidney's views of the Drama were halting and 
reactionary, he regained his clearness of vision in the 
concluding pages of his great Apologie. His 

final condemnation of strained conceits in n J f . em 


lyrical poetry although a fault from which 
his own verse is not always free is wise and enlight 
ened. He perceived that the English tongue was, if 
efficiently handled, comparable with Greek, and was far 
more pliant than Latin, in the power of giving harmoni 
ous life to poetic ideas. If he underrated the poetic 
promise of his age, his eloquent appeal to his fellow- 
countrymen at the end of his Apologie, to disown the 
' earth-creeping mind ' that ' cannot lift itself up to look 
into the sky of poetry,' proved for many a stirring call 



to arms. He took leave of his readers like a herald 
summoning to the poetic lists all the mighty combatants 
with whom the Elizabethan era was yet to be identified. 


But Sidney was soon summoned from these altitudes. 

Controversies in public and Court life were competing 

with literary debates for Sidney's attention. 

Difficulties The Q ueen > s f avour was always difficult to 

at Court. . . J . . 

keep. Her favourite, Leicester, Sidney s 
uncle, forfeited it for a time when the news reached her 
of his secret marriage with that Countess of Essex who 
was mother of Sidney's Penelope, his poetic idol, 
'Stella.' The Queen's wrath, when roused, always ex 
pended itself over a wide area, and it now involved all 
Leicester's family, including his nephew. 

There was much in Court life to alienate Sidney's 
genuine sympathies. Many of his fellow-courtiers were 
Quarrels difficult companions. The ill - mannered 
with Earl of Oxford always regarded Sidney with 

courtiers. dislike and ridiculed his aspirations. The 
Earl's wife was that daughter of the Prime Minister 
Burghley whose hand in girlhood had been at first offered 
by her father to Sidney himself. Childish quarrels be 
tween Sidney and the Earl were frequent. Once, at the 
Queen's palace at Whitehall, while Sidney was playing 
tennis, the Earl insolently insisted on joining uninvited 
in the game. Sidney raised objections. The Earl bade 
all the players leave the court. Sidney protested. The 
Earl called him 'a puppy.' Sidney retorted, truthfully 
if not very felicitously, 'Puppies are got by dogs, and 


children by men,' and then with greater point challenged 
the unmannerly nobleman to a duel. The dispute 
reached the Queen's ears. She forbade the encounter, 
and with great injustice ordered Sidney to apologise for 
an insult which he had directed at a man of higher rank 
than himself. Sidney declined, and the Queen's wrath 
against him increased. He was in no yielding mood, 
and sought no reconciliation. 

In the Queen's personal and political conduct there 
was at that moment much to offend Sidney's innermost 
convictions. He was resolved to forfeit altogether his 
position at Court rather than acquiesce in silence. The 
Queen was contemplating marriage with the King of 
France's brother. On grounds of patriotism and of 
Protestantism he begged her to throw over a Frenchman 
and a Catholic. There was no lack of plainness or of 
boldness in this address to his prince. The result was 
inevitable. He was promptly excluded from the royal 

Sidney's intellectual friends had long regretted the 
waste of his abilities which idle lounging about the 
Court entailed, and they viewed his taste of 
the royal anger without dejection. He, too, ret i rement 
left the Court with a sense of relief. Prefer 
ment that should be commensurate with his character 
and abilities had long seemed a hopeless quest ; vanity 
now appeared the only goal of a courtier's life. He 
could escape from it, with the knowledge that solace for 
his disappointments awaited him in the society of a 
beloved comrade, his sister, the Countess of Pembroke, 
whose tastes were singularly like his own. At her 
husband's country-house in Wiltshire he was always a 
welcome guest, and there could cut himself off with a 


light heart from the mean and paltry pursuit of the royal 
countenance. In this period of enforced retirement he 
engaged with the Countess in literary recreation of an 
exacting kind. For her and his own amusement he 
wrote a romance. He called it the Countess of Pem 
broke's Arcadia. It was the latest and most ambitious 
of all his literary endeavours, and gave him a world 
wide repute. 

Sidney affected to set no value on the work, which 
exile from the central scene of the country's activities 

had given him the opportunity of essaying. 

He undertook it, he said, merely to fill up 

Arcadia. ' . . J 

an idle hour and to amuse his sister. ' Now, 
it is done only for you, only to you :' he modestly told 
her, ' if you keep it to yourself, or to such friends, who 
will weigh errors in the balance of goodwill, I hope, 
for the father's sake, it will be pardoned, perchance 
made much of, though in itself it have deformities. 
For indeed, for severer eyes it is not, being but a trifle, 
and that triflingly handled.' 

The work is far more serious than the deprecatory 
preface suggests. Sidney's pen must have travelled with 
lightning speed. Whatever views may be 
entertained of the literary merits of his book, 
it amazes one by its varied learning, its 
wealth of episode and its exceptional length. It was 
eulogised in its own day by Sidney's friend, Gabriel 
Harvey, as a 'gallant legendary, full of pleasurable 
accidents and profitable discourses; for three things 
especially very notable for amorous courting (he was 
young in years), for sage counselling (he was ripe in 
judgment), and for valorous fighting (his sovereign pro 
fession was arms) and delightful pastime by way of 


pastoral exercises may pass for the fourth.'* The com 
mendation is pitched in too amiable a key. The Arcadia 
is a jumble of discordant elements ; but, despite its 
manifold defects, -it proves its author to have caught a 
distant glimpse of the true art of fiction. 

The romance was acknowledged on its production to 
be a laborious act of homage to a long series of foreign 
literary influences. In his description of character and 
often in his style of narration he was thought to have 
assimilated the tone of the Latin historians Livy, 
Tacitus, and the rest, and the modern chroniclers, 
Philippe de Comines and Guicciardini. The Arcadia 
is a compound of an endless number of simples, all of 
which are of foreign importation. Sidney proves in it 
more than in his sonnets or his critical tract his loyalty 
to foreign models and the catholicity of taste which he 
brought to the study of them. 

The corner stone of the edifice must be sought in a 
pastoral romance of Italy. A Neapolitan, Sanazzaro, 
seems to have been the first in modern Europe to apply 
the geographical Greek name of Arcadia to an imaginary 
realm of pastoral simplicity, where love alone held sway. 
Sanazzaro, who wrote very early in the i6th century, 
was only in part a creator. He was an enthusiastic 
disciple of Virgil, and he had read Theocritus. His 
leading aim was to develop in Italian prose the pastoral 
temper of these classical poets. But he brought to his 
work the new humanism of the Renaissance and broad 
ened the interests and outlook of pastoral literature. 
His Italian Arcadia set an example which was eagerly 
followed by all sons of the Renaissance of whatever 
nationality. In Spain one George de Montemayor de- 
* Pierces Supererogation, etc. 


veloped forty years later Sanazzaro's pastoral idealism 
in his fiction of Diana Inamorada, and the Spanish 
story gained a vogue only second to its Italian original. 
Sidney was proud to reckon himself a disciple of Mon- 
temayor the Spaniard, as well as of Sanazzaro the Nea 

But it was not exclusively on the foundations laid by 
Italian or Spaniard that Sidney's ample romantic fiction 
The Greek was based. Two other currents merged in 
novel of its main stream. Sidney knew much of late 
Heliodorus. Greek literary effort which produced, in the 
third century of the Christian era, the earliest specimen 
of prose fiction. It was the Graeco-Syrian Heliodorus, 
in his ' Aethiopian Tales,' who first wrote a prose novel 
of amorous intrigue. Heliodorus's novels became popu 
lar in translation in every western country, and Sidney 
familiarised himself with them. But his literary horizon 
was not bounded either by the ancient literature of 
Greece or by the contemporary adaptations of classical 
literary energy. Feudalism had its literary exponents. 
Mediaeval France and Spain were rich in tales of chiv 
alry and feudal adventure. The tedious narrative, for 
example, of Amadis of Gaul, which was mainly respon 
sible for the mental perversion of Don Quixote, fired 
the Middle Ages with a genuine enthusiasm. That 
enthusiasm communicated itself to Sidney. 

To each of these sources the pastoral romances of 
the Renaissance of Italy and Spain, the Greek novel, 
and the mediaeval tales of chivalry Sidney's Arcadia 
is almost equally indebted. But his idiosyncrasy was 
not wholly submerged. Possibly Sidney originally 
thought to depict with philosophic calm in his retire 
ment from the Court the life of shepherds and shep- 


herdesses, and thereby illustrate the contrast between 
the simplicity of nature and the complex ambitions of 
princes and princesses. But the theme rang , 
hollow to one who had studied closely life mingling 
and literature, who sought, above all things, of pastoral 
to be sincere. To credit rusticity which he with chiv- 
knew to be coarse, ignorant, and sensual, with .?. a 
unalloyed innocence was little short of fraud. 
To confine himself solely to pastoral incident, however 
realistically treated, was to court tameness. On his 
pastoral ground-plan, therefore, he grafted chivalric war 
fare of a mediaeval pattern, and intrigue in the late 
Greek spirit 

Chivalric adventure is treated by Sidney for the most 
part with directness and intelligibility. At the outset of 
his Arcadia, two princely friends, Musidorus of Macedon 
and Pyrocles of Thessaly, who enjoy equal renown for 
military prowess, are separated in a shipwreck, and find 
asylum in different lands. Each is entertained by the 
king of the country which harbours him, and is set at 
the head of an army. The two forces meet in battle. 
Neither commander recognises in the other his old 
friend, until they meet to decide the final issues of the 
strife in a hand-to-hand combat. Peace follows the 
generals' recognition of one another. The two friends 
are free to embark together on a fantastic quest of love 
in Arcadia. Each seeks the hand of an Arcadian prin 
cess, and they willingly involve themselves in the 
domestic and dynastic struggles which distract the 
Arcadian court and country. 

Sidney developed the design with bold incoherence. 
The exigences of love compel his heroes to disguise 
themselves. Musidorus, the lover of the Arcadian 


Princess Pamela, assumes the part of a shepherd, calling 
himself Dorus ; while Pyrocles, the lover of the Arcadian 
The Princess Philoclea, with greater boldness, 

complex metamorphoses himself into a woman; he 
intrigue. arrays himself as an Amazon, and takes the 
feminine name of Zelmane. Out of this strange dis 
guise is evolved a thread of story which winds itself 
intricately through nearly the whole of the romance. 
The Amazonian hero spreads unexpected havoc in the 
Arcadian court by attracting the affections of both the 
Princess's parents of Basilius, the old king of Arcady, 
who believes him to be a woman ; and of Synesia, the 
lascivious old queen, who perceives his true sex. 

The involutions and digressions of the plot are too 
numerous to permit full description. The extravagances 
grow more perplexing as the story develops. Arcadian 
realms exhibit in Sidney's pages few traditional features. 
The call of realism was in Sidney's ears the call of 
honesty, and his peasants divested themselves of ideal 
features for the ugly contours of fact. His shepherds 
and shepherdesses have long passed the age of innocent 
tranquillity. Their land is a prey to dragons and wild 
beasts, and their hearts are gnawed by human passions. 
Sidney had, too, a sense of the need of variety in fiction. 
New characters are constantly entering to distort and 
postpone the natural denouement of events. The work 
is merged in a succession of detached episodes and 
ceases to be an organic tale. Parts are much more 
valuable than the whole. Arguments of coarseness and 
refinement enjoy a bewildering contiguity. At one 
moment Platonic idealism sways the scene, and the 
spiritual significance of love and beauty overshadows 
their physical and material aspects. At the next 


moment we plunge into a turbid flood of abnormal 
passion. The exalted thought and aspiration of the 
Renaissance season Sidney's pages, but they do not 
exclude the grosser features of the movement. There 
are chapters which almost justify Milton's sour 
censure of the whole book as ' a vain and amatorious 
poem.' * 

* The text of the Arcadia suffers from the author's casual 
methods of composition. Much of it survives in an unrevised 
shape. He seems to have himself prepared for press the first two 
books, and the opening section of the third about a half of the 
whole. This portion of the romance was printed in 1590, and 
ended abruptly in the middle of a sentence. Subsequently there 
was discovered a very rough draft of portions of a long continua 
tion, forming the conclusion of th? third book, with the succeeding 
fourth and fifth books. This supplement survived in ' several loose 
sheets (being never after reviewed or so much as seen altogether 
by himself) without any certain disposition or perfect order.' With 
a second edition of the authentic text these unrevised sheets were 
printed in 1593. Sidney's sister, the Countess of Pembroke, sup 
plied the recovered books with ' the best coherences that could be 
gathered out of those scattered papers,' but no attempt was made 
to fill an obvious hiatus in the middle of the third book at the 
point where the original edition ended and the rough draft opened. 
Nor did the editor or publisher venture to bring the unfinished 
romance to any conclusion. What close was designed for the story 
by the author was ' only known to his own spirit.' The editors of 
later editions, bolder than their predecessors, sought to remedy 
such defects. The gap in the third book was in 1621 filled by a 
' little essay ' from the pen of a well-known Scottish poet, Sir 
William Alexander, Earl of Stirling. Finally, in 1628, a more 
adventurous spirit, Richard BeMng, or Bellings, a young barrister 
of Lincoln's Inn, endeavoured to terminate the story in a wholly 
original sixth book. It is with these additions that subsequent 
re-issues of the Arcadia were invariably embellished. Other 
efforts were made to supplement Sidney's unfinished romance. 
One by Gervase Markham, an industrious literary hack, came out 


The Arcadia is a prose tale and Milton only applied 
to it the title of poem figuratively. But one important 
characteristic of the Arcadia is its frequent 
introduction of interludes of verse which, 
although they appeal more directly to the historian of 
literature than to its aesthetic critic, must be closely 
examined by students of Sidney's work. Shepherds 
come upon the stage and sing songs for the delectation 
of the Arcadian King, and actors in the story at times 
express their emotions lyrically. Occasionally Sidney's 
verse in the Arcadia seeks to adapt to the English 
language classical metres, after the rules that the club of 
'Areopagus' sought to impose on his pen. The sap- 
phics and hexameters of the Arcadia are no less strained 
and grotesque than are earlier efforts in the like direc 
tion. They afford convincing proof of the hopeless 
pedantry of the literary principles to which Sidney for 
a time did homage, but which he afterwards recanted. 
Sidney's metrical dexterity is seen to advantage, how 
ever, in his endeavours to acclimatise contemporary 
forms of foreign verse. In his imitation of the sestina 
and terza rima of contemporary Italy he shows felicity 
and freedom of expression. He escapes from that 
servile adherence to rules of prosody which is ruinous 
to poetic invention. Sidney's affinity with the spirit of 
Italian poetry is seen to be greater than his affinity with 
the spirit of classical poetry. 

No quite unqualified commendation can be bestowed 
on the prose style of his romance. It lacks the direct- 
as early as 1607. Another, by 'a young gentlewoman,' Mrs. A. 
Weames, was published in 1651. The neglect of these frag 
mentary contributions by publishers of the full work calls for no 


ness which distinguishes the Apologie for Poetrie. It 
fails to give much support to Drayton's contention 
that Sidney rid the English tongue of con 
ceits and affectations. His metaphors are stv ^ pr 
often far-fetched, and he overloads his page 
with weak and conventional epithets. The vice of 
diffuseness infects both matter and manner. But de 
lightful oases of perspicuous narrative and description of 
persons and places are to be found, although the search 
may involve some labour. 

The unchecked luxuriance of Sidney's pen, and 
absence of well-wrought plan did injustice to the genuine 

insight into life and the descriptive power 

, . & , , , , . . ; Want of 

which belonged to him. Signs, however, are co h erence 

discernible amid all thp tangle that, with the 

exercise of due restraint, he might have attained mastery 

of fiction alike in style and subject-matter. 

It was difficult for Sidney, whatever the attractions 
that the life of contemplation and literary labour had to 
offer him, complacently to surrender Court Reconcilia- 
favour, and with it political office, altogether, tion with 
He knew the meaning of money difficulties ; the Queen, 
tailors and bootmakers often pressed him for payment. 
They were not easy to appease. The notion of seeking 
a livelihood from his pen was foreign to all his concep 
tions of life. From the Queen and her Ministers he 
could alone hope for remunerative employment. He 
therefore deemed it prudent to seek a reconciliation. 
Quarrels with Queen Elizabeth were rarely incurable. 


A solemn undertaking to abstain from further political 

argument which involved the Queen, opened to Sidney 

an easy road to peace. 

His uncle Leicester interested himself anew in his 

fortunes, and transferred to him a small administrative 
office which he himself had held, that of 
Steward to the Bishop of Winchester. He 

promotion. . . 

succeeded his father, too, as Member of 
Parliament for Kent. In Parliament he joined with 
eagerness in the deliberations of a Committee which 
recommended strenuous measures against Catholics and 
slanderers of the Queen. But in the House of Com 
mons he made little mark. The slow methods of the 
assembly's procedure, and its absorption in details which 
lacked large significance, oppressed Sidney's spirit. He 
was ill-adapted to an arena where success came more 
readily to tactful reticence and apathy than to exuberant 
eloquence and enthusiasm. 

In 1583 he was knighted, and assumed his world- 
famous designation of Sir Philip Sidney. But it is one 

of history's little ironies that it was not for 
hood an y P ersona l merit that he received the title 

of honour. English people like titles, al 
though it be the exception, and not the rule, for them 
to reward notable personal merit. In Sir Philip's case 
it happened that a friend whom he had met abroad, 
Prince John Casimir, brother of the Elector Palatine, 
had been nominated by Queen Elizabeth to the dignity 
of a Knight of the Garter. Unable to attend the in 
vestiture himself the prince had requested his friend 
Sidney to act as his proxy. Such a position could only 
be filled by one who was himself of the standing of a 
knight-bachelor, the lowest of all the orders of knight- 


hood. Consequently, in compliment to the foreign 
prince, the Queen conferred knighthood on the prince's 
representative. It was a happy accident by which 
Sidney was enrolled among English knights. It was 
not designed as a recognition of his worth ; it conferred 
no special honour on him ; but it renewed the dignity 
of an ancient order of chivalry, and it lends a pic 
turesque colour to the closing scene of his career. 

For a year Sidney's course of life ran somewhat more 
smoothly. Once again he sought scope for political 
ambitions. He obtained more remunerative j i n t- 
official employment. He was offered a post Master 
in the military administration of the country, of the 
He was appointed Joint-Master of the Ord- Ordnance, 
nance with another uncle, the Earl of Warwick, Leices 
ter's elder brother. 

The need of a regular income was the more pressing 
because Sidney was about to enter the married state. 
His old friend, the Queen's Secretary, Sir 
Francis Walsingham, who, when English 
ambassador, was his host at Paris in the year of the 
St. Bartholomew Massacre, chose him for his son-in-law, 
for the husband of his daughter Frances, a girl of only 
fourteen. Sidney was twenty-nine years old, more than 
twice her age, and there seems good reason to regard 
the union as a marriage de convenance. The astute 
Secretary of State, who had always cherished an affec 
tionate interest in Sidney, thought that the young man 
might yet fill with credit high political office, and his 
kinship with Leicester gave him hope of a rich inherit 
ance. The arrangement was not, however, concluded 
without difficulty. Sidney's father declared that 'his 
present biting necessity' rendered monetary aid from 


him out of the question. Leicester was not immediately 
helpful, and other obstacles to the early solemnisation 
of the nuptial ceremony presented themselves. The 
Queen was never ready to assent quickly to her courtiers' 
marriages. For two months she withheld her assent. 
Then she suddenly yielded, and showed no trace of 
resentment. The marriage took place in the autumn of 
1583. It was the first scene of the last act in Sidney's 
life. He had barely three years to live. 

Sidney took up his residence with his wife's parents 
near London, at Barn Elms. His course of life under- 
Relations went l^ 6 other change. His literary rela- 
with Lady tions with his old friend Penelope Devereux, 
Rich. w ho two years before had become the wife 

of Lord Rich, were not interrupted. He continued to 
write sonnets to her, and their loyal friendship remained 
the admiration of fashionable society. None the less 
Sidney stirred in his girl-wife a genuine affection, and 
nothing in his association with Lady Rich seems to 
have prejudiced her happiness. 

Sidney's married life, after its first transports were 
over, increased rather than diminished his dissatisfaction 
The call of w i tn his prospects at home. A complete 
the New change of scene and of effort crossed his 
World. mind. He thought of trying his fortune in 
a new field of energy. The passion for exploration, for 
founding English colonies in the newly discovered Con 
tinent of America, which had mastered the minds of so 
many contemporaries, suddenly absorbed him. His 
active intellect was drawn within the whirlpool of that 
new enthusiasm. At first he merely took a few shares 
in an expedition in search of the North- West Passage, 
but his hopes ran high as he scanned the details of the 


project. He believed that gold, and all that gold might 
bring, was to be found in abundance in the hazy con 
tinent of the north. But to take a vicarious part in 
adventure ill sorted with his nature. He resolved to 
join in person Sir Humphrey Gilbert, who was about to 
set forth on that eventful expedition to Newfoundland 
from which he never returned. Sidney was finally 
induced to stay behind. He was thus preserved from 
the fate of Gilbert, who was wrecked on the voyage 

But Sidney's imagination dwelt on the possibilities 
which control of a new and untrodden world implied. 
Designs of dazzling scope vaguely shaped Grant to 
themselves in his brain : he would gain Sidney of 
control of the greater part of the new con- American 
tinent and make of it a purified Arcadia lands - 
such as fiction could hardly comprehend. Accordingly, 
he sought and obtained letters-patent to hold for him 
self and colonise at will the unknown world. No less 
than three million acres of undiscovered land in America 
were soon set at his disposal. The document announc 
ing the grant is well fitted to be enrolled in the courts 
of Faerie. Sir Philip was ' licensed and authorised to 
discover, search, find out, view, and inhabit certain 
parts of America not yet discovered, and out of those 
countries, by him, his heirs, factors, or assigns to have 
and enjoy, to him his heirs and assigns for ever, such 
and so much quantity of ground as should amount to 
the number of thirty hundred thousand acres of ground 
and wood, with all commodities, jurisdiction, and 
royalties, both by sea and land, with full power and 
authority that it should and might be lawful for the said 
Sir Philip Sidney, his heirs and assigns, at all times 


thereafter to have, take, and lead in the said voyage, to 
travel thitherwards or to inhabit there with him or them, 
and every or any of them, such and so many of her 
Majesty's subjects as should willingly accompany him 
or them, or any or every of them, with sufficient 
shipping and munition for their transportations.' 

History seemed obeying the laws that govern fiction. 
Sidney was building, on a basis of legal technicalities, a 
castle in the air. The scheme suffered the fate of all 
speculations in unverified conditions. Little followed 
the generous grant But Sidney steadily fixed his eyes 
for the time on the Atlantic horizon. He was greatly 
moved by Sir Walter Ralegh's plans for the exploration 
of the land that Ralegh named 'Virginia.' Sidney sat 
on a committee of the House of Commons which was 
appointed to adjust the shadowy boundaries of the first 
projected settlement of Englishmen in that country. 
The committee's deliberations had no practical effect 
Sidney was destined to come to no closer quarters with 
the fanciful property, of which the law, working for once 
in strange agreement with the vagaries of the imagina 
tion, had made him master. 


The short remainder of Sidney's life was passed in 
new surroundings. It was on the field of battle that 

he closed his brief pilgrimage on earth, 
scene Hostility to Catholic Spain had combined 

with his imaginative energy greatly to stim 
ulate his interest in the American schemes. Advancing 
life and closer study of current politics strengthened the 
conviction that Spain, unless her career were checked, 


was England's fated conqueror in every sphere. The 
cause alike of Protestantism, of enlightenment, and of 
trade was menaced by Spanish predomi 
nance. A general attack on the Empire of ^ 
Spain was essential to England's security. 
With characteristic impetuosity he turned from his 
American speculations and surveyed the Spanish peril. 
He was tiring of the contemplative life. He was bent 
on trying his fortune in an enterprise of action. An 
opportunity for active conflict with Spain seemed to be 
forced on England's conscience which could hardly 
suffer neglect. Spain was making a determined effort 
to drive Protestantism from the stronghold that it had 
acquired in the Low Countries. Sidney's old admirer, 
William of Orange, had,' in 1584, been murdered there 
at Spanish instigation, a martyr to the cause of Protestant 
freedom. It was England's duty, Sidney now argued, 
vigorously to avenge that outrage. The more direct 
the onslaught on Spain the better. Spain should be 
attacked in all her citadels ; the Low Countries should 
be over-run ; raids should be made on Spanish ports ; 
her rich trade with South America should be persistently 
intercepted and ultimately crushed. 

Such a design, as soon as his mind had formulated 
it, absorbed all Sidney's being. But it met with faint 
encouragement in the quarter whence au- The atti- 
thority to carry it into execution could alone tude of 
come. The Queen was averse to a direct the Queen, 
challenge of Spain. She was not fond of spending 
money. She deprecated the cost of open war. But 
Sidney and his friends were resolute. They would not 
let the question sleep. The nation ranged itself on 
their side. At length, yielding to popular clamour, the 


Queen agreed, under conditions which indemnified her 
for loss of money, to send strictly limited help to the 
Protestant States of the Low Country. She would 
assist them in a qualified way to repel the assadlt of 
Spain. She would lend them money and would send 
an army, the cost of which they were to defray. With 
a policy so meagre in conception and so poor in spirit 
Sidney had small sympathy. But it was all that it was 
possible to hope for, and with it he had to rest content. 
At any rate, wherever and however the blow was to be 
struck against Spain, he was resolved to lend a hand. 
That resolve cost him his life. 

The command of the English force for the Low 

Countries was bestowed on Sidney's uncle Leicester; 

and the Queen reluctantly yielded to per- 

ofFlushin suas i n > an d conferred on Sidney a subordi- 

"' nate post in the expedition. He was 

appointed Governor of Flushing, one of the cities which 

the Queen occupied by way of security for the expense 

which she was incurring. In the middle of November, 

1585, Sidney left Gravesend to take up his command. 

It was to be his first and last experience of battle. 

The campaign was from the outset a doubtful success. 
The Queen refused to provide adequate supplies. 
Difficulties Leicester proved an indolent commander, 
of the Harmonious co-operation with their Dutch 

campaign, allies was not easy for the English. Sidney 
soon perceived how desperate the situation was. He 
wrote hastily to his father-in-law Walsingham, who 
shared in a guarded way his political enthusiasm, urging 
him to impress the Queen with the need of a larger 
equipment. He had not the tact to improve the situa 
tion by any counsel or action of his own on the spot. 


He persuaded his uncle to make him Colonel of a 
native Dutch regiment of horse, an appointment which 
deeply offended a rival native Dutch candidate. The 
Queen, to Sidney's chagrin, judged the rival's grievance 
to be just. Sidney showed infinite daring when oppor 
tunity offered, but good judgment was wanting. There 
was wisdom in his uncle's warning against his facing 
risks in active service. Direction was given him to keep 
to his post in Flushing. 

At length Leicester, yielding to the entreaties of his 
colleagues and his nephew, decided to abandon Fabian 
tactics and to come to close quarters with xh e 
the enemy. The great fortress of Zutphen, attack on 
which was in Spanish hands, was to be Zutphen. 
attacked. As soon as the news reached Sidney, he 
joined Leicester's army of assault as a knight-errant ; 
his own regiment was far away at Deventer. He 
presented himself in Leicester's camp upon his own 

On the 2ist September 1586, the English army 
learned that a troop of Spaniards, convoying provisions 
to Zutphen, was to reach the town at day 
break next morning. Five hundred horsemen woun *j ' 
of the English army were ordered to inter 
cept the approaching force. Without waiting for orders, 
Sidney determined to join in the encounter. He left 
his tent very early in the morning of the 22nd, and 
meeting a friend who had omitted to put on leg-armour, 
he rashly disdained the advantage of better equipment, 
and quixotically lightened his own protective garb. Fog 
hung about the country. The little English force soon 
found itself by mistake under the walls of the town, and 
threatened alike in front and at the rear. A force of 


three thousand Spanish horsemen almost encircled them. 
They were between two fires between the Spanish 
army within the town and the Spanish army which was 
seeking to enter it. The Englishmen twice charged the 
reinforcements approaching Zutphen, but were forced to 
retreat under the town walls. At the second charge 
Sidney's horse was killed under him. Remounting 
another, he foolhardily thrust his way _ through the 
enemy's ranks. Then, perceiving his isolation, he turned 
back to rejoin his friends, and was struck as he retreated 
by a bullet on the left thigh a little above the knee. He 
managed to keep his saddle until he reached the camp, 
a mile and a half distant. What followed is one of the 
classical anecdotes of history, and was thus put on 
record by Sidney's friend Greville : ' Being thirsty with 
excess of bleeding, he called for drink, which was 
presently brought him ; but as he was putting the bottle 
to his mouth, he saw a poor soldier carried along, who 
had eaten his last at the same feast, ghastly casting up 
his eyes at the bottle, which Sir Philip perceiving, took 
it from his head before he drank, and delivered it to the 
poor man, with these words, " Thy necessity is greater 
than mine." And when he had pledged this poor 
soldier he was presently carried (by barge) to Arnheim.' 
Sidney's wife hurried from England to his bedside at 
' Arnheim, and after twenty-six days' suffering he died. 
In his last hours he asked that the Arcadia, 
which had hitherto only circulated in manu 
script, might be burnt, but found in literary 
study and composition solace in his final sufferings. 
The States-General the Dutch Government begged 
the honour of according the hero burial within their 
own dominions, but the request was refused, and some 


months later he was buried in great state in that old St. 
Paul's Cathedral the church of the nation which was 
burnt down in the great fire of 1666. 

Rarely has a man been more sympathetically mourned. 
Months afterwards Londoners refused to wear gay 
apparel. The Queen, though she shrewdly 

complained that Sidney invited death by 

' ' mourning. 

his rashness, was overwhelmed with grief. 
Students of both Oxford and Cambridge Universities 
published ample collections of elegies in honour of one 
who served with equal zeal Mars and Apollo. Fully 
two hundred poems were written in his memory at the 
time. Of these by far the finest is Spenser's pathetic 
lament ' Astrophel, a Pastoral Elegy,' where the personal 
fascination of his character receives especially touching 
recognition : 

' He grew up fast in goodness and in grace, 
And doubly fair wox both in mind and face, 
Which daily more and more he did augment, 
With gentle usage and demeanour mild : 
That all mens hearts with secret ravishment 
He stole away, and weetingly beguiled. 
Ne spite itself, that all good things doth spill, 
Found aught in him, that she could say was ill.' 

'Astrophel,' I. 17. 


Sidney's career was, to employ his own words, ' meetly 
furnished of beautiful parts.' It displayed ' many things 
tasting of a noble birth, and worthy of a 
noble mind.' Yet his achievements, whether ^ s 

in life or literature, barely justify the passion 
ate eulogy which they won from contemporaries. In 


none of his endeavours did he win a supreme triumph. 
His friend, Gabriel Harvey, after eulogising his ripe 
judgment in many callings, somewhat conventionally 
declared that 'his sovereign profession was arms.' 
There is small ground for the statement. Sidney's fame 
owes more to the fascination of his chivalric personality 
and quick intelligence, and to the pathos of his early 
death, than to his greatness in any profession, whether 
in war or politics or poetry. 

In practical life his purpose was transparently honest. 
He showed a boy-like impatience of the temporising 
habit of contemporary statesmanship, but there was a 
lack of balance in his constitution which gave small 
assurance of ability to control men or to mould the 
course of events. The catastrophe at Zutphen tempts 

one to exclaim : 

' 'Twas not a life, 
'Twas but a piece of childhood thrown away.' 

To literature he exhibited an eager and an ardent 
devotion. The true spirit of poetry touched his being, 
His but he rarely abandoned himself to its 

literary finest frenzies. It was on experiments in 
work. forms of literary art, which foreign masters 

had taught him, that he expended most of his energy. 
Only in detached lyrics, which may be attributed to his 
latest years, did he free himself from the restraints of 
study and authority. Only once and again as in his 
great dirge beginning : 

4 Ring out your bells ! Let mourning shows be spread, 
For love is dead,' 

did he wing his flight fearlessly in the purest air of the 
poetic firmament. Elsewhere his learning tends to 


obscure his innate faculty. Despite his poetic en 
thusiasm and passionate idealism, there is scarcely a 
sonnet in the famous sequence inscribed by Astrophel 
to Stella which does not illustrate an 'alacrity in 

But no demerits were recognised in Sidney by his 
contemporaries. He was, in the obsolete terminology 
of his admiring friend, Gabriel Harvey, 'the secretary of 
eloquence, the breath of the Muses, the honey bee of 
the daintiest flowers of wit and art, the pith of moral and 
intellectual virtues, the arm of Bellona in the field, the 
tongue of Suada in the chamber, the spirit of practice in 
esse, and the paragon of excellency in print.'* His 
literary work, no less than his life, magnetised the age 
His example fired scores of Elizabethans to pen long 
sequences of sonnets in that idealistic tone of his, which 
itself reflected the temper of Petrarch and i nfluence 
Ronsard. His massive romance of Arcadia of the 
appealed to contemporary taste despite its Arcadia, 
confusions, and was quickly parent of a long line of 
efforts in fiction which exaggerated its defects. Eliza 
bethan dramatists attempted to adapt episodes of Sidney's 
fiction to the stage. Shakespeare himself based on 
Sidney's tale of 'an unkind king' the incident of 
Gloucester and his sons in King Lear. It was not only 
at home that his writings won the honour of imitation. 
The fame of the Arcadia spread to foreign countries.' 
Seventeenth-century France welcomed it in translations 
as warmly as the original was welcomed in England. 

It was indeed by very slow degrees that the Arcadia 
was dethroned either at home or abroad. In the 
eighteenth century it had its votaries still. Richardson 
* Pierces Supererogation, etc. 


borrowed the name of Pamela from one of Sidney's 
princesses. Cowper hailed with delight ' those Arcadian 
scenes' sung by 'a warbler of poetic prose.' But the 
revolt against the predominance of Sidney's romance 
could not then be long delayed. English fiction of 
ordered insight was coming into being. The Arcadia, 
which defied so much of the reality of life, could not 
breathe the true atmosphere, and it was relegated to 
obscurity. Historically it remains a monument of deep 
interest to literary students, but its chief attraction is 
now that of a curious effigy ; the breath of life has fled 
from it. 

Yet, despite the ephemeral character of the major 
part of Sidney's labours, the final impression that* his 
The final brief career left on the imagination of his 
impression countrymen was lasting. He still lives in the 
of his life national memory as the Marcellus the earli- 
and work. est Marcellus of English literature. After 
two centuries the poet Shelley gave voice to a faith, 
almost universal among Englishmen, that his varied 
deeds, his gentle nature, and his early death had robed 
him in 'dazzling immortality.' In Shelley's ethereal 

' Sidney, as he fought 

And as he fell, and as he lived and loved, 

Sublimely mild, a spirit without spot,' 

was among the first of the inheritors of unfulfilled re 
nown to welcome to their thrones in the empyrean the 
youngest of the princes of poetry, John Keats. 



' O what a noble mind is here o'erthrown ! 
The courtier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword, 
The expectancy and rose of the fair state . . . 
The observed of all observers, quite, quite down ! ' 

SHAKESPEARE, Hamlet, in. i. 159-162. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. By fat the best biography of Relegh is 
Sir Walter Ralegh ; a biography, by Mr. William Stebbing, 
Oxford, 1891. His letters may be studied in the second of 
the two volumes of the ' Life,' by Edward Edwards, 1868. 
The chief collection of his works in prose and verse was 
published at Oxford in eight volumes in 1829. The best 
edition of his poetry is ' The Poems of Sir Walter Ralegh 
and other courtly poets, collected and authenticated, by 
John Hannah, D.C.L. (Aldine Edition), London, 1885.' 
The most characteristic of his shorter prose writings, his 
Discovery of Guiana, is published in Cassells' National 
Library (No. 67).] 

THE primary cause of colonial expansion lies in the 
natural ambition of the healthy human intellect to ex 
tend its range of vision and knowledge. p r i ma ry 
Curiosity, the inquisitive desire to come to cause of 
close quarters with what is out of sight, colonial 
primarily accounts for the passion for travel expansion, 
and for exploration whence colonial movements spring. 


Intellectual activity is the primary cause of the colonis 
ing instinct. 

But the colonising, the exploring spirit, when once it 
has come into being, is invariably stimulated and kept 
Three anve by at ^ east three secondary causes, 
secondary which are sometimes mistaken for the pri- 
causes. mary. In them good and bad are much 
tangled. ' The web of our life,' says Shakespeare, ' is 
of a mingled yarn, good and ill together.' Of a very 
mingled yarn is the web of which colonial effort is 

The intellectual desire to know more about the world 
than is possible to one who is content to pass his life in 
his native district or land is commonly stim 
ulated, in the first place, by the hope of 
gam. '. r T , 

improving one s material condition, by the 

expectation of making more money than were likely 
otherwise. Evil lurks in this expectation; it easily 
degenerates into greed of gain, into the passion for 

The desire for foreign exploration, too, is invigorated 
by impatience of that restraint which law or custom 

imposes on an old country, by the hope of 
Passion for ,., , : , , f 

liberty greater liberty and personal independence. 

This hope may tempt to moral ruin ; it may 
issue in the practice of licentious lawlessness. 

Then there emerges a third motive the love of mas 
tery, the love of exercising authority over peoples of 
inferior civilisation or physical development 
mastery ^ e l ve of mastery is capable alike of bene 
fiting and of injuring humanity. If it be 
exercised prudently, it may serve to bring races, which 
would otherwise be excluded, within the pale of a higher 


civilisation ; but if it be exercised imprudently, it sinks 
to tyranny and cruelty. 

The passion for mastery, the passion for gold, and the 
passion for freedom, have all stimulated colonising 
energy with mingled results. When the three passions 
are restrained by the moral sense, colonising energy 
works for the world's advantage ; the good prepon 
derates. Wherever the moral sense proves too weak to 
control the three perilous passions, colonising energy 
connotes much moral and physical evil. 

Great colonising effort, which has its primary source 
in intellectual curiosity, is an invariable characteristic of 
eras like the era of the Renaissance, when Great 
man's intellect is working, whether for good colonising 
or ill, with exceptional energy. The Greeks epochs, 
and Romans were great colonisers at the most enlight 
ened epochs of their history. In modern Europe 
voyages of discovery were made by sailors of the Italian 
Republics, of the Spanish peninsula, and of France, 
when the spirit of the Renaissance was winging amongst 
them its highest flight. 

At first the maritime explorers of Southern Europe 
confined their efforts to the coast of Africa, especially 
to the west coast. Then they passed to -phe 
the East to India, at first by way of the Western 
Red Sea, and afterwards round the Cape of Hemi- 
Good Hope, and through the Indian Ocean. s P here - 
Nothing yet was known of the Western Hemisphere. 
It was a sanguine hope of reaching India by a new and 


direct route through western seas that led to the great 
discovery of the Continent of America. 

Columbus, its discoverer, was a native of the Italian 
Republic of Genoa, a city distinguished by the feverish 
Columbus's energy with which its inhabitants welcomed 
discovery, new ideas that were likely to increase men's 
1492. material prosperity. It was in August 1492 

when sailing under the patronage of the greatest 
sovereigns that filled the throne of Spain, Ferdinand 
and Isabella, on what he believed would prove a new 
route to the Indies that Columbus struck land in what 
he called, and in what we still call, the West Indies. 
He made two voyages to the West Indies before he 
passed further west and touched the mainland, which 
turned out to be South America. 

England, under the intellectual stimulus of the Renais 
sance, somewhat lagged behind Spain in the exploration 
England ^ tne Western Seas. Yet colonial expan- 
and the sion loomed on England's horizon when the 
New English Renaissance was coming to birth at 

World - the end of the fifteenth century. Like Spain, 
England owed its first glimpse of the New World to the 
courage of an Italian sailor. 

At the time that Columbus set forth to discover the 
West Indies, John Cabot, also a native of energetic 
Genoa, was settled at Bristol in England, and was a pilot 
of that port. Just before Columbus sighted the main 
land of South America, Cabot sighted the mainland of 
North America. Columbus and Cabot flourished at 
the end of the fifteenth century in Sir Thomas More's 
youth. The work which they inaugurated was steadily 
carried forward throughout the sixteenth century, and 
its progress was watched with a restless ecstasy. 


The division of labour in exploring the new conti 
nent, which was faintly indicated by the two directions 
which Cabot and Columbus took respectively North and 
to North and South, was broadly adopted in South 
the century that followed by sailors starting America, 
respectively from English and Spanish harbours. Span 
iards continued to push forward their explorations in 
South America, or in the extreme south of the northern 
continent. Englishmen by no means left South America 
undisturbed, but they laid the foundations of their 
greatest victories for the future in the northern division 
of the new continent. Spain and England came to be 
strenuous rivals as colonisers of the Western Hemi 
sphere. In the end, South America became for the 
most part a Spanish settlement ; North America became 
for the most part an English settlement. 

The knowledge that a New World was opening to the 
Old, hardly proved so sharp a spur to the average 
imagination in England as in other countries America 
of Western Europe. Yet it contributed to and new 
the formation among the more enlightened ideals. 
Englishmen of a new ideal of life ; it gave birth in their 
minds to the notion that humanity had in its power to 
begin at will existence afresh, could free itself in due 
season from the imperfections of the Old World. Within 
very few years of the discovery of America, Sir Thomas 
More described, as we have seen, that ideal state which 
he located in the new hemisphere, that ideal state upon 
which he bestowed the new name of 'Utopia.' Sir 
Thomas More's romance of Utopia is not merely a 
literary masterpiece ; it is also a convincing testimony 
to the stirring effects on English genius of the discovery 
of an unknown, an untrodden world. 


But the discovery of America brought of necessity in 
its train to England, no less than to other countries, the 
Material- less elevated sentiments which always dog 
istic the advances of exploration. The spirit of 

influences. English exploration was not for long un- 
coloured by greed of gain. Licence and oppression 
darkened its development. But the vague immensity of 
the opportunities opened by the sudden expansion of 
the earthly planet filled Englishmen with a ' wild surmise ' 
which, if it could not kill, could check the growth of 
active evil. England's colonial aspirations of the sixteenth 
century never wholly lost their first savour of idealism. 

In Elizabethan England a touch of philosophy tinged 
the spirit of adventure through all ranks of the nation. 
The Men were ambitious, Shakespeare tells us, 

spirit of to see the wonders of the world abroad in 
adventure, order to enlarge their mental horizons. They 
lavished their fortunes and their energies in discovering 
islands far away, in the interests of truth. The intel 
lectual stir which moved his being impelled Sir Philip 
Sidney, the finest type of the many-sided culture of the 
day, to organise colonial exploration, although he died 
too young to engage in it actively. The unrest which 
drove men to cross the ocean and seek settlement in 
territory that no European foot had trodden was identi 
fied with resplendent virtue. Such was the burden of 
Drayton's ode ' To the Virginian Voyage ' : 

1 You brave heroic minds, 
Worthy your country's name, 
That honour still pursue, 
Whilst loitering hinds 
Lurk here at home with shame, 
Go, and subdue. 


Britons, you stay too long ; 
Quickly aboard bestow you, 
And with a merry gale 
Swell your stretched sail, 
With vows as strong 
As the winds that blow you. 

Englishmen of mettle were expected to seek at all 
hazards earth's paradise in America. Not only was the 
New World credited with unprecedented fertility, but 
the laws of nature were believed to keep alive there a 
golden age in perpetuity. 

These fine aspirations were never wholly extinguished, 
although there lurked behind them the hope that an age 
of gold in a more material and literal sense imaginary 
than philosophers conceived might ultimately age of 
reward the adventurers. The Elizabethans gold, 
were worldly-minded enough to judge idealism alone an 
unsafe foundation on which to rear a colonial empire. 
1 For I am not so simple,' said an elderly advocate of 
colonial enterprise who fully recognised in idealism a 
practical safeguard against its degradation, ' I am not so 
simple to think that any other motive than wealth will 
ever erect in the New World a commonwealth, or draw 
a company from their ease and humour at home to settle 
[in colonial plantations].' 

The popular play called Eastward Ho! published 
early in the seventeenth century, reviewed at the 
close of the epoch of the English Renaissance all the 
prevailing incitements to colonial expansion. The 
language is curiously reminiscent of a passage in 
Sir Thomas More's Utopia, and illustrates the per 
manence of the hold that idealism in the sphere of 
colonial experiment maintained in the face of all 


challenges over the mind of sixteenth-century English 

In the play an ironical estimate was given of the 
wealth that was expected to lie at the disposal of all 
comers to the New World. Infinite treasure was stated 
to lie at the feet of any one who cared to come and pick 
it up. Gold was alleged by the dramatist to be more 
plentiful in America than copper in Europe ; the natives 
used household utensils of pure gold ; the chains which 
hung on the posts in the streets were of massive gold ; 
prisoners were fettered in gold ; and ' for rubies and 
diamonds,' declares the satiric playwright, ' the Ameri 
cans go forth on holidays and gather them by the sea 
shore, to hang on their children's coats, and stick in 
their caps, as commonly as our children in England 
wear saffron gilt brooches and groats with holes in 

At the same time the dramatist recognised that the 

passion for moral perfection remained an efficient factor 

in colonising enterprise. He claimed for the 

new country that public morality had reached 

there a pitch never known in England. No 

office was procurable except through merit ; corruption 

in high places was unheard of. The New World offered 

infinite scope for the realisation of perfection in human 



The mingled motive of sixteenth-century colonial 
enterprise is best capable of realisation in the career of 
a typical Elizabethan Sir Walter Ralegh. The char 
acter and achievements of Ralegh, alike in their defects 


and merits, sound more forcibly than those of any 
other the whole gamut of Renaissance feeling and 
aspiration in Elizabethan England. His R a i eg h a 
versatile exploits in action and in con- type of 
templation in life and literature are a Elizabethan 
microcosm of the virtues and the vices versatllit y- 
which the Renaissance bred in the Elizabethan mind 
and heart. 

Ralegh as a boy was an . enthusiast for the sea. He 
was a native of Devonshire, whence many sailors have 
come. Sir Francis Drake, the greatest of 
Elizabethan maritime explorers, was also a j-. , 
Devonshire man. It was he who first 
reached the Isthmus of Panama, and, first of English 
men to look on the Pacific Sea beyond, besought Al 
mighty God of His kindness to give him life and leave 
to sail an English ship once in that sea. That hope he 
realised six years later when he crossed the Pacific, 
touched at Java, and came home by way of the Cape of 
Good Hope. Drake's circumnavigation of the globe 
was the mightiest exploit of any English explorer of the 
Elizabethan era. 

Only second to Drake as a maritime explorer was Sir 
Humphrey Gilbert, also a Devonshire man, who in 1583 
in the name of Queen Elizabeth took posses- R . , , 
sion of Newfoundland, the oldest British j^f. 
colony. This Sir Humphrey Gilbert was brother, 
Ralegh's elder half-brother, for they were Sir 
sons of the same mother, who married twice. Humphrey 
Her first husband, Sir Humphrey's father, 
was Otho Gilbert, who lived near Dartmouth. Her 
second husband, who was Ralegh's father, was a country 
gentleman living near Budleigh Salterton, where Ralegh 



was born about 1552, some two years before Sir Philip 

Gilbert was Ralegh's senior by thirteen years, and like 
him Ralegh obtained his first knowledge of the sea on the 
Infancy beach of his native place. The broad Devon- 
and shire accent, in which he always spoke, he 

education, probably learnt from Devonshire sailors. His 
intellect was from youth exceptionally alert. Vigorous 
as was always his love of outdoor life, it never absorbed 
him. With it there went a passion for books, an ad 
mirable combination, the worth of which was never better 
illustrated than in the life and letters of the Renaissance. 

After spending a little time at Oxford, and also study 
ing law in London study that did not serve him in 
life very profitably Ralegh followed the fashion among 
young Elizabethans and went abroad to enjoy experi 
ence of military service. 


Englishmen were then of a more aggressive temper 
than they think themselves to be now. The new Prot 
estant religion, which rejected the ancient 
with'spain domination f tne Papacy, had created a 
militant spiritual energy in the country. 
That spiritual energy, combining with the new physical 
and intellectual activity bred of the general awakening 
of the Renaissance, made it almost a point of conscience 
for a young Elizabethan Protestant in vigorous health to 
measure swords with the rival Catholic power of Spain. 
As Sir Philip Sidney realised, Spain and England had 
divided interests at every point. Spain had been first 
in the field in the exploration of the New World, and 


was resolved to spend its energy in maintaining exclu 
sive mastery of its new dominion. Spain was the fore 
most champion of the religious ideals of Rome. Pacific 
persuasion and argument were not among the prosely 
tising weapons in her religious armoury. She was bent 
on crushing Protestantism by force of arms. She lent 
her aid to the French Government to destroy the 
Protestant movement in France which the 

Huguenots had organised there. She em- J 5 ^! 11 *, n 

... Holland, 

barked on a long and costly struggle in her 

own territory of the Low Countries in Holland to 
suppress the Dutch champions of the Reformed religion, 
whose zeal for active resistance was scarcely ever equalled 
by a Protestant people. 

Naturally Ralegh at an early age sought an oppor 
tunity of engaging in the fray. He found his earliest mili 
tary experiences in fighting in the ranks of 
the Huguenots in France. Then he crossed F ** 
the French territory on the North to offer 
his sword to the Dutch Protestants, who were struggling 
to free themselves from Spanish tyranny and Spanish 
superstition in the Low Countries. 

But it was in the New World that Spain was making 
the most imposing advance. Spanish pretensions in 
Europe could only be effectually checked if His first 
the tide of Spanish colonisation of the New conflict 
World were promptly stemmed. Ralegh with Spain, 
was filled to overflowing with the national jealousy of 
Spain, and with contempt for what he deemed her 
religious obscurantism. His curiosity was stirred by 
rumours of the wonders across the seas, where Spain 
claimed sole dominion. Consequently his eager gaze 
was soon fixed on the New Continent. 


At twenty-six, after gaining experience of both peace 
and war in Europe, he joined his half-brother, Sir 
Humphrey Gilbert, in a first expedition at sea, on a 
voyage of discovery. He went as far as the West 
Indies. With the Spaniards who had already settled 
there inevitable blows were exchanged. But Ralegh's 
first conflict with the arch enemy was a drawn battle. 
He was merely prospecting the ground, and the venture 
bore no immediate fruit. 

During a succeeding season he exhausted some of his 
superabundant energy in a conflict nearer home. In 

Ireland, England was engaged in her unend- 
In Ireland. . , . , , P ! , . _ 

ing struggle with the native population. On 

Ralegh's return from the West Indies he enlisted, with 
a view to filling an idle hour, in the Irish wars. The 
situation was not hopeful, and his mind was too busy 
with larger projects to lead him to grapple with it seri 
ously. Ireland appeared to him to be 'a lost land,' 'a 
common woe, rather than a commonwealth.' But its 
regeneration seemed no work for his own hand. He 
gained, however, a great material advantage from his 
casual intervention in the affairs of the country. There 
was granted to him a great tract of confiscated land in 
the South of Ireland, some forty thousand acres in what 
are now the counties Waterford and Cork. The princely 
estate stretched for many miles inland from the coast at 
Youghal along the picturesque banks on both sides of 
the river Blackwater in Munster. 

The soil was for the most part wild land overgrown 
with long grass and brambles, but Ralegh acquired with 
the demesne a famous house and garden near Youghal 
which was known as Myrtle Grove, and he afterwards 
built a larger mansion at Lismore. There he spent 


much leisure later, and both houses are of high biographic 
interest. It was not, however, the puzzling problems of 
Irish politics which occupied Ralegh's attention, while 
he dwelt on Irish soil. He formed no opinions of his 
own on Irish questions. He accepted the conventional 
English view. For the native population he cherished 
the English planters' customary scorn. He did not hesi 
tate to recommend their removal by means of ' practices,' 
which were indistinguishable from plots of assassination. 
But politics were not the interests which he cultivated 
in the distracted country. He devoted his energies there 
to the pacific pursuits of poetry and of gardening, and to 
social intercourse with congenial visitors. 

The passion for colonisation, for colonisation of terri 
tory further afield than Munster, was the dominant in 
fluence on Ralegh's mind. It was his half-brother 
Gilbert's discovery of Newfoundland, and the grant to 
Gilbert of permission to take, in the Queen's name, 
possession of an almost infinite area of unknown land 
on the North American Continent, that led to the epi 
sode which gave Ralegh his chief claim to renown in 

the history of the English Colonies. Gilbert's 
, . i j u j Gilbert's 

ship was wrecked ; he was drowned on return- death jrg, 

ing from Newfoundland, and the Queen was 
thereupon induced to transfer to Ralegh most of the 
privileges she had granted to his half-brother. The 
opportunity was one of dazzling promise. Ralegh at 
once fitted out an expedition to undertake the explora 
tion which Gilbert's death had interrupted. 


But Ralegh had meanwhile become a favourite of the 
Queen.* He had exerted on her all his charm of man- 
Ralegh ner and f speech. He had practised to the 
and Queen full those arts familiar to all the courts of the 
Elizabeth. Renaissance which gave a courtier's adulation 
of his prince the tone of amorous passion. In the ab 
sence of ' his Love's Queen ' or of ' the Goddess of his 
life' Ralegh declared himself, with every figurative ex 
travagance, to live in purgatory or in hell ; in her presence 
alone was he in paradise. Elizabeth rejoiced in the 
lover-like attentions that Ralegh paid her. She affected 
to take him at his word. His flatteries were interpreted 
more literally than he could have wished. She refused 
to permit her self-styled lover to leave her side. He 
was ordered to fix his residence at the court. Reluctantly 
Ralegh yielded to the command of his exacting mistress. 
The expedition that he fitted out to North America left 
without him. 

Ralegh's agents, after a six weeks' sail, landed on what 
is now North Carolina, probably on the island of Roa- 
noke. The reports of the mariners were highly favour- 

* The well-known story that Ralegh first won the Queen's 
favour by placing his cloak over a muddy pool in her path is not 
traceable to any earlier writer than Fuller, who in his Worthies, 
first published in 1662, wrote : ' Captain Raleigh coming out of 
Ireland to the English court in good habit (his clothes being then a 
considerable part of his estate) found the queen walking, till meet 
ing with a plashy place, she seemed to scruple going thereon. 
Presently Raleigh cast and spread his new plush cloak on the 
ground ; whereon the queen trod gently, rewarding him afterwards 
with many suits, for his so free and seasonable tender of so fair a 
foot cloth. Thus an advantageous admission into the first notice 
of a prince is more than half a degree to preferment.' The inci 
dent was carefully elaborated by Sir Walter Scott in his novel 
Kenil-worth, chap. xv. 


able. A settlement, they declared, might readily be 
made. At length Englishmen might inhabit the New 

World. The notion presented itself to 
_. ,,,.,.., ~ . Virginia. 

Ralegh s mind to invite the Queen s permis 
sion to bestow on this newly discovered territory, which 
was to be the corner-stone of a British colonial empire, 
a name that should commemorate his fealty to the virgin 
Queen, the name of ' Virginia.' It was a compliment 
that the Queen well appreciated at her favourite's hand. 
It gave her a lease of fame which the soil of England 
alone could not secure for her. For many years after 
wards all the seaboard from Florida to Newfoundland 
was to bear that designation of Virginia. It was a desig 
nation which linked the first clear promise of the coloni 
sation by Englishmen of the North American Continent 
with the name of the greatest of English queens. 

Ralegh's project of planting a great English colony in 
North America had arisen in many other minds before 
it took root in his. He had heard, while fighting with 
the Huguenots in France, of their hopes of founding in 
North America a new France, where they should be free 
from the persecution of the Roman Catholic Govern 
ment. He had studied the ambitious designs of Coligny, 
the leader of the French Huguenots, and the tragic fail 
ure which marked the first attempt of Frenchmen to 
colonise North America. It was probably this know 
ledge that fired Ralegh's ambition to make of Virginia a 
New England. In that hope he did not himself suc 
ceed, but his failure was due to no lack of zeal. Two 

years after he had received the report of his 

~ .... ,,..,,. Grenville s 

first expedition, he sent out his cousin, Sir exped ; t j on 

Richard Grenville, with a band of colonists 

whom he intended to settle permanently in his country of 


Virginia. But difficulties arose which baffled his agent's 
powers. There were desperate quarrels between the 
settlers and natives. Food was scanty. The forces of 
nature conquered the settlers. Most of them were 
rescued from peril of death and carried home a year 
later by Sir Francis Drake. Ralegh was not daunted 
by such disasters. He refused to abandon his aim. 
Further batches of colonists were sent out by him in 
later years at his expense. The results of these expedi 
tions did not, however, bring him appreciably nearer 
success. Mystery overhangs the fate of some of these 
earliest English settlers in America, Ralegh's pioneers 
of the British empire. They were either slain or ab 
solved past recognition by the native peoples. In 1587, 
one band of Ralegh's emigrants, consisting of eighty-nine 
men, seventeen women, and two children, were left in 
Virginia, while their leaders came home for supplies, 
but when these emissaries arrived again in the new con 
tinent, the settlers had all disappeared. What became 
of them has never been known. 

Ralegh was never in his life in Virginia. He was 
never near its coast-line. His project, the fruit of 
Ralegh's idealism, was not pursued with much regard 
relations for practical realisation. The difficulty of 
with settling a new country with Europeans he 

Virginia. hardly appreciated. He is reckoned to have 
spent forty thousand pounds in money of his own day 
about a quarter of a million pounds of our own currency 
in his efforts to colonise Virginia. So long as he was 
a free man his enthusiasm for his scheme never waned, 
and he faced his pecuniary losses with cheerfulness. 
Despite his failures and disappointments, his costly and 
persistent efforts to colonise Virginia are the starting- 


point of the history of English colonisation. To him 
more than to any other man belongs the credit of in 
dicating the road to the formation of a greater England 
beyond the seas. 

Two subsidiary results of those early expeditions to 
Virginia which Ralegh organised, illustrate the minor 
modifications of an old country's material The potato 
economy that may spring from colonial enter- and 
prise. His sailors brought back two new tobacco, 
products which were highly beneficial to Great Britain 
and Ireland, especially to Ireland. Englishmen and 
Irishmen owe to Ralegh's exertions their practical ac 
quaintance with the potato and with tobacco. The 
potato he planted on his estates in Ireland, and it has 
proved of no mean service alike to that country and to 
England. Tobacco he learnt to smoke, and taught the 
art to others. 

Tobacco-smoking, which revolutionised the habits, at 
any rate, of the masculine portion of European society, 
is one of the striking results of the first ex- Spread of 
periments in colonial expansion. The magi- tobacco- 
cal rapidity with which the habit of smoking smoking, 
spread, especially in Elizabethan England, was a singular 
instance of the adaptability of Elizabethan society to new 
fashions. The practice of tobacco-smoking became at 
a bound a well-nigh universal habit. Camden, the his 
torian of the epoch, wrote a very few years after the 
return of Ralegh's agents from Virginia that since their 
home-coming 'that Indian plant called Tobacco, or 
Nicotiana, is grown so frequent in use, and of such 
price, that many, nay, the most part, with an unsatiable 
desire do take of it, drawing into their mouth the smoke 
thereof, which is of a strong scent, through a pipe made 


of earth, and venting of it again through their nose; 
some for wantonness, or rather fashion sake, or other 
for health sake. Insomuch that Tobacco shops are set 
up in greater number than either Alehouses or Taverns.' * 


In more imposing ways Ralegh's early endeavours 
bore fruit while he lived. Early in the seventeenth 
Captain century Captain John Smith, a born traveller, 
John considered somewhat more fully and more 

Smith in cautiously than Ralegh the colonising prob- 
Virginia. j em> an( j reac hed a workable solution. In 
1606 Smith took out to Virginia 105 emigrants, to the 
banks of the James river in Virginia. His colonists 
met, like Ralegh's colonists, with perilous vicissitudes, 
but the experiment had permanent results. Before 
Ralegh's death he had the satisfaction of learning that 
another leader's colonising energy had triumphed over 
the obstacles that dismayed himself, and the seed that 
he had planted had fructified. 

Smith was a harder-headed man of the world than 
Ralegh. Idealism was not absent from his tempera- 
Colonial ment, but it was of coarser texture, and was 
philosophy capable of answering to a heavier strain. It 
of Ralegh's was stoutly backed by a rough practical sense, 
disciples. jj e ^ QQ ^ ^ wor i c o f colonising to be a pro 
fession or handicraft worthy of any amount of energy. 
He preached the useful lesson that settlers in a new 
country must work laboriously with their hands. His 
views echo those of his far-seeing contemporary, Bacon, 

* Camden, Annales, 1625, Bk. 3, p. 107. 


who compressed into his Essay on Plantations the finest 
practical wisdom about colonisation that is likely to be 
met with. There must be no drones among colonists is 
the view of Bacon and Captain John Smith ; the scum 
of the people should never be permitted to engage in 
colonial enterprise ; there should not be too much moil 
ing underground in search of mines ; there should be no 
endeavour to win profit hastily and inconsiderately ; the 
native races should be treated justly and 
graciously. ' Do not entertain savages, 'Bacon 
wrote, 'with trifles and gingles, but show 
them grace and justice, taking reasonable precautions 
against their attacks, but not seeking the favour of any 
one tribe amongst them by inciting it to attack another 
tribe.' Above all, it was the duty of a mother-country 
to promote the permanence and prosperity of every 
colonial settlement which had been formed with her 
approval. ' It is the sinfullest thing in the world to for 
sake or destitute a plantation once in forwardness. For, 
beside the dishonour, it is the guiltiness of blood of many 
commiserable persons.' 

It was colonisation conceived on these great lines that 
Captain John Smith, Ralegh's disciple, carried out in 
practice with a fair measure of success. His Captain 
idealism was not of the tender kind which John 
enfeebled his working methods, but it flashed Smith's 
forth with brilliant force in the prophetic views - 
energy with which he preached the value of a colonial 
outlet to the surplus population of an old country. 
'What so truly suits with honour and honesty as the 
discovering of things unknown, erecting towns, peo 
pling countries, informing the ignorant, reforming things 
unjust, teaching virtue, and to gain our native mother- 


country a kingdom to attend her, to find employment 
for those that are idle because they know not what to 


The rivalry between Spain and England which was 
largely the result of the simultaneous endeavour to 
The colonise the newly - discovered countries 

Spanish reached its climax in 1588, when Spain made 
Armada. a mighty effort to crush English colonial 
enterprise at its fountain-head by equipping a great 
fleet to conquer and annex the island of Britain itself. 
Ralegh naturally took part in resisting the great expedi 
tion of the Spanish Armada, and contributed to the 
defeat of that magnificently insolent effort. He does 
not seem to have taken a very prominent part in active 
hostilities, but he did useful work ; he helped to organise 
the victory. When the danger was past he was anxious 
to pursue the offensive with the utmost vigour and to 
forward attacks on Spain in all parts of the world. Her 
dominion of the Western oceans must be broken if Eng 
land was to secure a colonial empire. Others for the 
moment took more active part than Ralegh in giving 
effect to the policy of aggression. But in 1592 an ex 
pedition under his control captured a great Spanish 
vessel homeward bound from the East Indies with a 
cargo of the estimated value of upwards of half a million 

Ralegh had ventured his own money on the expedi 
tion, and was awarded a share of the plunder, but it was 
something less than that to which he thought himself 
entitled, and he did not dissemble his annoyance. 


Ralegh was masterful and assertive in intercourse with 
professional colleagues of his own rank. His colonis 
ing idealism was not proof against the strain Ralegh's 
of idly watching others reap from active par- hopes of 
ticipation in the great struggle with Spain a S ain - 
larger personal reward than himself. Desire for wealth 
grew upon him as the passions of youth cooled, and the 
hope that some of the profits which Spain had acquired 
from her settlements in. the New World might fill his 
own coffers besieged his brain. Anxiety to make out of 
an energetic pursuit of colonisation a mighty fortune, 
was coming into conflict with the elevated aspirations of 
early days. The vehement struggle of vice and virtue 
for mastery over men's souls, which characterised the 
Elizabethan age in a greater degree than any other age, 
was seeking a battle-ground in Ralegh's spirit. 

Ralegh shared that versatility of interest and capacity 
which infected the enlightenment of the era. Like his 
great contemporaries, his energy never al- intellectual 
lowed him to confine his aims to any one pursuits 
branch of effort. Interest in literature and and 
philosophy was intertwined with his interest sympathies, 
in the practical affairs of life, and he had at command 
many avenues of escape from life's sordid temptations. 
The range of his speculative instinct was not limited by 
the material world. It was not enough for him to dis 
cover new countries or new wealth. He was ambitious 
to discover new truths of religion, of philosophy, of 
poetry. No man cherished a more enthusiastic or more 
disinterested affection for those who excelled in intel 
lectual pursuits. No man was more generous in praise 
of contemporary poets, or better proved in word and 
deed his sympathy with the noblest aspirations of con- 


temporary literature. From the early days of his career 
in Ireland he was the intimate associate of Spenser, who 
held civil office there, and lived in his neighbourhood. 
Spenser, the great poet and moralist, who in his age was 
second in genius only to the master poet, Shakespeare, 
was proud of the friendship. With characteristic ambi 
tion to master all branches of intellectual 
energy, Ralegh emulated his friend and 
neighbour in writing poetry. His success was para 
doxically great. His poetry breathes a lyric fervour 
which is not out of harmony with his disposition, but its 
frequent tone of placid meditation seems far removed 
from the stormy temper of his life. The most irrepress 
ible of talkers, when speech was injurious to his own 
interests, he preached in verse more than once the 
virtues of silence : 

' Passions are likened best to flood and streams ; 

The shallow murmur, but the deep are dumb ; 
So when affections yield discourse, it seems 

The bottom is but shallow whence they come. 
They that are rich in words, in words discover 
That they are poor in that which makes a lover,' 

Amid the rush and turmoil of politics and of warfare 
which absorbed the major part of his activity, Ralegh 
never for long abandoned 

' Those clear wells 
Where sweetness dwells,' 

the sweetness of philosophy, poetry, history, and all 
the pacific arts that can engage the mind of man. Poetry 
was only one of many interests in the literary sphere. 
He loved to gather round him the boldest intellects of 


his day, and, regardless of consequences, frankly to 
discuss with them the mysteries of existence. Marlowe, 
the founder of English tragedy, the tutor of Shakespeare, 
was his frequent companion. They debated together 
the evidences of Christianity, and reached the perilous 
conclusion that they were founded on sand. He was a 
member, too, of one of the earliest societies or clubs of 
Antiquaries in England, and surveyed the progress of 
civilisation in England from very early times. He 
caught light and heat from intercourse with all classes 
of men to whom things of the mind appealed. To him, 
tradition assigns the first invention of those famous 
meetings of men of letters which long digni- Meetings 
fied the ' Mermaid ' Tavern in Bread Street at the 
in the City of London. Credible tradition 'Mermaid.' 
asserts that those meetings were attended by Shake 
speare, Ben Jonson, and all the literary masters of the 
time; that there stimulating wit was freer than air. 
Genius encountered genius, each in its gayest humour. 
The spoken words were 

' So nimble, and so full of subtle flame, 
As if that every one from whence they came 
Had meant to put his whole wit in a jest, 
And had resolved to live a fool the rest 
Of his dull life.' 

No part of Ralegh's life could be dull. All parts of it 
were full of ' subtle flame.' But that flame was destined 
to burn itself out far away from the haunts of his com 
rades of the pen. 



Ralegh's versatility, the free unfettered play of his 
fertile thought, distinguishes him even among Eliza 
bethan Englishmen, and lends his biography the 
strangest mingling of light and shadow. His tireless 
speculative ambition manifested itself in the most im 
posing practical way when he was about forty years old. 
Self-contradiction was inherent in his acts. Despite his 
reverence for the triumph of the intellect, the affairs of 
the world were ever under his eager observation. Ripen 
ing experience deepened the conviction that gold was 
the pivot on which human affairs mainly revolved, and 
that he who commanded untold sources of wealth could 
gratify all human desires. The opportunity of making 
such a conquest suddenly seemed to present itself to 
Ralegh. His poetic imagination made him credulous. 
He resolved on a pilgrimage to a fabulous city, where 
endless treasure awaited the victorious invader. 

Reports had been spread in Spain of the existence of 
a city of fabulous wealth in South America to which had 
El D d Deen given the Spanish name of ' El Dorado.' 
Its location was vaguely defined. It was 
stated to be in the troublous country that we now 
know as Venezuela, which is itself part of the wider 
territory called by geographers Guiana. The rumour 
fired Ralegh's brain. The ambition to investigate its 
truth proved irresistible. Hurriedly he sent out an 
agent to inquire into the story on what was thought to 
be the spot, but the messenger brought him no informa 
tion of importance. Vicarious inquiry proved of no 
avail. At length in 1595 Ralegh went out himself. 
He infected his friends with his own sanguine expecta- 


tion. He succeeded in enlisting the sympathy or ma 
terial support of the chief ministers of state. He 
obtained a commission from the Queen permitting him 
to wage war if necessary upon the Spaniard and the 
native American in South America. No risk was too 
great to be run in such a quest. The exploit which was 
to provide endless peril and excitement was the turning- 
point of Ralegh's career. 

Without delay Ralegh reached Trinidad, a Spanish 
settlement. From the first active hostilities had to be 
faced. Little resistance was offered, how- Th e 
ever, at Trinidad, and Ralegh took prisoner expedition 
the Spanish governor, who proved a most to Guiana, 
amiable gentleman. The governor freely told Ralegh 
all he knew of this reputed city or mine of gold on the 
mainland. A Spanish explorer a few years ago had, it 
appeared, lived among the natives of Guiana for seven 
months, and on his death-bed bore witness to a limitless 
promise of gold near the banks of the great river Orinoco 
and its tributaries which watered the territory of Guiana. 

In April 1595 Ralegh, with a little flotilla of ten 
boats bearing one hundred men, and provisions for a 
month, started on his voyage up the river. The equip 
ment was far from adequate for the stirring enterprise. 
' Our vessels,' Ralegh wrote, ' were no other than 
wherries, one little barge, a small cockboat, and a bad 
galliota, which we framed in haste for that purpose at 
Trinidad, and those little boats had nine or ten men 
apiece with victuals and arms.' They had to row 
against the stream, which flowed with extraordinary 
fury; the banks were often covered with thick wood, 
and floating timber was an ever present danger. De 
barkation for prospecting purposes was attended with 


the gravest risks. The swiftness of the current often 
rendered swimming or wading impossible. 

The hardships which Ralegh and his companions 
faced hardly admit of exaggeration. Almost every day 
they were 'melted with heat in rowing and marching, 
and suddenly wet again with great showers. They ate 
of all sorts of corrupt fruit and made meals of fresh 
fish without season.' They lodged in the open air 
every night. Not in the filthiest prison in England 
, could be found men in a more ' unsavory 

5 lps ' and loathsome ' condition than were Ralegh 
and his friends while they ran their race for the golden 
prize. But their spirits never drooped. Their hopes 
ran high to the end. Ralegh was able in his most 
desperate straits to note in detail the aspects of nature 
and the varied scenery that met his gaze. Despite the 
inhospitable river banks, nature smiled on much of 
the country beyond. After climbing one notable hill, 
' there appeared,' Ralegh wrote with attractive vivacity, 

' some ten or twelve waterfalls in sight, every 
The natural , . , , . , . , . , 

scene one as S above the other as a church 

tower, which fell with that fury, that the 
rebound of waters made it seem as if had been all 
covered over with a great shower of rain ; and in some 
places we took it at the first for a smoke that had 
risen over some great town. For mine own part, I 
was well persuaded from thence to have returned, being 
a very ill footman; but the rest were all so desirous 
to go near the said strange thunder of waters, as they 
drew me on by little and little, till we came into the 
next valley, where we might better discern the same. 
I never saw a more beautiful country, nor more lively 
prospects, hills so raised here and there over the 


valleys, the river winding into divers branches, the 
plains adjoining without bush or stubble, all fair green 
grass, the ground of hard sand, easy to march on either 
for horse or foot, the deer crossing in every path, the 
birds towards the evening singing on every tree with 
a thousand several tunes, cranes and herons of white, 
crimson, and carnation, perching on the river's side, 
the air fresh, with a gentle easterly wind; and every 
stone that we stopped to take up promised either gold 
or silver by his complexion.' 

But Ralegh and his friends had mistaken their route, 
and were bent on what proved a fool's errand. The 
golden fleece was unattainable. The promise of the 
stones on the shores was imperfectly fulfilled. After 
proceeding four hundred and forty miles up the difficult 
river, further progress was found impossible. Then 
Ralegh and his companions went down with the current 
back to the sea. The ' white spar ' on the river bank, 
in which appeared to be signs of gold, was all that 
the travellers brought home. Metallurgists to whom 
he submitted them, on revisiting London, declared 
the appearance true.* 

* Scoffers freely asserted that the ' white spar,' many tons of 
which Ralegh brought home with him, was nothing else than 
' marcasite ' or iron-pyrites. In the letter to the reader with 
which he prefaced his Discovery of Guiana Ralegh categorically 
denied the allegation. He wrote hopefully, ' In London it was 
first assayed by Master Westwood, a refiner dwelling in Wood 
Street, and it held after the rate of 12,000 or 13,000 pounds a ton. 
Another sort was afterwards tried by Master Bulmar and Master 
Dimoke, assay-master, and it held after the rate of 23,000 pounds 
a ton. There was some of it again tried by Master Palmer, 
comptroller of the mint, and Master Dimoke in Goldsmith's hall, 
and it was held after at the rate of 26,900 pounds a ton. There 


There is no doubt that Ralegh came near making a 
great discovery. Little question exists that a great 
Within gld mine lay in Venezuela, not far from 
reach of the furthest point of his voyage up the river 
gold. Orinoco. Many years later, during the nine 

teenth century, a gold mine was discovered within the 
range of Ralegh's exploration, and has since been 
worked to great profit. But the El Dorado which 
Ralegh thought to grasp had eluded him. It remained 
for him a dream. Not that he ever wavered in his 
confident belief that the city of gold existed and was 
yet to be won. He retired for the time with the resolve 
to make new advances hereafter. He left behind, with 
a tribe of friendly natives, 'one Francis Sparrow (a 
servant of Captain Gifford), who was desirous to tarry, 
and could describe a country with his pen, and a boy 
of mine, Hugh Goodwin, to learn the language.' 

Affairs at home prevented Ralegh's early return to 
South America. A new Spanish settlement soon blocked 
the entrance to the river Orinoco, and the region he 
had entered was put beyond his reach. A last desperate 
attempt to force a second passage up the Orinoco 
brought, as events turned out, Ralegh to the scaffold. 
He had soared to heights at which he could not sustain 
his flight. 

One result of Ralegh's first experience of the banks 
of the Orinoco demands a recognition, which requires 

was also at the same time, and by the same persons, a trial made 
of the dust of the said mine, which held eight pounds six ounces 
weight of gold in the hundred ; there was likewise at the same 
time a trial made of an image of copper made in Guiana which 
held a third part gold, besides divers trials made in the country, 
and by others in London.' 


no apology. His narrative of the expedition The 
Discovery of Guiana ranks with the most vivid 
pictures of travel. No reader, be he naturalist or 
geographer or ethnologist, or mere lover of stirring 
adventure, will turn to the fascinating pages without 
delight. Literary faculty in a traveller is always re 
freshing. Few books of travel are more exhilarating 
or invigorating than this story by Ralegh of his hazard 
ous voyage. 

When Ralegh came back to England from the Orinoco 
he flung himself with undaunted energy into further 
conflict with Spain. There were rumours Further 
of a new Spanish invasion of England, which conflict 
it was deemed essential to divert by attack- Wlth Spam, 
ing Spain in her own citadels. Two great expeditions 
were devised, and in both Ralegh took an active part. 
He was with the fleet which attacked Cadiz in 1596. 
Again next year he joined in a strenuous effort to 
intercept Spanish treasure ships off the Azores. Ralegh 
worked ill under discipline, and, chiefly owing to his 
quarrels with his fellow-commanders, the atttempt on 
the islands of the Atlantic failed. Fortune had never 
been liberal in the bestowal of her favours on him. 
At best she had extended to him a cold neutrality. 
Little of the glory or the gain that came of the 
last two challenges to Spain fell to Ralegh. Thence 
forth the fickle goddess assumed an attitude of 
menace, which could not be mistaken. She became 
his active and persistent foe. 



Ralegh's later years were dogged' by disaster. With 
the death of Queen Elizabeth begins the story of his 
ruin. She had proved no constant mistress, and had 
at times driven him from her presence. His marriage 
in 1592 had excited more than the usual measure of 
royal resentment. But Queen Elizabeth was not ob 
durate in her wrath. Her favour was never forfeited 
irrevocably. Ralegh long held the court office of 
captain of the guard. In her latest years there was 
renewal of his sovereign's old show of regard for him. 
She liked to converse with him in private; and the 
envious declared that she 'took him for a kind of 
oracle.' To the last he addressed her in those adula 
tory strains which she loved. During all her reign, 
adversity had mingled in his lot with prosperity, but 
prosperity delusively seemed at the close to sway the 

A bitter spirit of faction divided Queen Elizabeth's 
advisers against themselves. Ralegh's hot temper and 
Ralegh impatience of subordination made him an 
and Court easy mark for the hatred and uncharitable- 
factions. ness which the factious atmosphere fostered. 
The outspoken language which was habitual to him 
was violently resented by rival claimants to the Queen's 
favour. With one of these, the Earl of Essex, who 
was even more self-confident and impetuous than him 
self, he maintained an implacable feud until the Earl's 
death on the scaffold. Ralegh had come into conflict 
with Lord Howard of Effingham, the great admiral 
of the Armada, and an influential member of the 
Howard family. The admiral's numerous kindred re- 


garded him with aversion. Sir Robert Cecil, the prin 
cipal Secretary of State in Queen Elizabeth's last years, 
who held in his hand all the threads of England's 
policy, although more outwardly complacent, cherished 
suspicion of Ralegh. It was only royal favour that had 
hitherto rendered innocuous the shafts of his foes. 
Now that that favour was withdrawn Ralegh was to 
find that he had sown the wind and was to reap the 
whirlwind. Fortune, wrote a contemporary, 'picked 
him out of purpose ... to use as her tennis ball;' 
having tossed him up from nothingness to a point 
within hail of greatness she then unconcernedly tossed 
him down again. 

Between Ralegh and his new sovereign, James i., 
little sympathy subsisted. They knew little of one 
another. To Ralegh's personal enemies at xhe acces- 
Court James owed the easy road which led sion of 
to the English throne. Ralegh on purely James i. 
personal grounds, which court schisms fully account 
for, abstained from showing enthusiasm for James's 
accession. He fully recognised the justice of the 
Scottish monarch's title to the English crown. But 
he had not pledged himself, like his private foes, in a 
preliminary correspondence to support the new King 
actively. By that preliminary correspondence the King 
set great store. He was not prepossessed in favour of 
any of Elizabeth's courtiers who had failed before Eliza 
beth's death to avow in writing profoundest sympathy 
with his cause. 

As soon as James became King of England, Ralegh's 
position at Court was seen to be insecure. His enemies 
were favourably placed for avenging any imagined in 
dignity which his influence with the late sovereign had 


enabled him to inflict on them. He lay at the mercy 
of factions which were markedly hostile to himself and 
held the ear of the new sovereign. There was no 
likelihood that the new wearer of the crown would exert 
himself to protect him from assault. 

At first a comparatively petty disgrace was put on 
him. He was unceremoniously superseded in his 
Fabricated court office of captain of the guard, a post 
charges of which had brought him into much personal 
treason. contact with the late sovereign. He natu 
rally resented the affront and showed irritation among 
his friends. The king's allies found ready means of 
increasing their own importance and improving their 
prospects of advancement by drawing to light of day 
and exaggerating any hasty expression of doubt respect 
ing James's legal title to the English crown of which 
they could find evidence. Dishonest agents easily dis 
torted an inconsiderate word of dissatisfaction with the 
political situation into deliberate treason. An intricate 
charge of this character was rapidly devised against 
Ralegh by his factious foes, and almost without warning 
he was brought within peril of his life. He was accused 
on vague hearsay of having joined in a plot to surprise 
the king's person with a view to his abduction or 
assassination. It was alleged that he was conspiring 
to set up another on the throne, to wit, the king's 
distant cousin, Arabella Stuart. Ralegh was put under 
arrest. Thoroughly exasperated by the victory which 
his enemies had won over him, he for the first time in 
his life lost nerve. He made an abortive attempt at 
suicide. This rash act was held by his persecutors to 
attest his guilt. When he was brought to trial at 
Winchester the plague in London had compelled the 


Court's migration all legal forms were pressed against 
him. In the result he was condemned to a traitor's 
death (iyth Nov. 1603). His estates were 

forfeited, and such offices as he still re- f j ' 

of death. 

tamed were taken from him. 

For three weeks Ralegh lay in Winchester Castle in 
almost daily expectation of the executioner's dread 

summons. He sought consolation in litera- , 

, . , . The respite, 

tiire, and in letters and in poems addressed 

to his wife he sought to reconcile himself to his fate. 
He made no complaint of his perverse lot. He had 
drunk deep of life, and was not averse in his passion 
for new experience to taste death. But James faltered 
at the last, and hesitated to sign the death-warrant. A 
month after the trial Ralegh was informed that he was 
reprieved of the capital punishment. He was to be 
kept a prisoner in the Tower of London. He was not 
pardoned, nor was his sentence commuted to any fixed 
term of confinement. As long as he was alive, it was 
tacitly assumed by those in high places that liberty 
would be denied him. It was difficult for one of 
Ralegh's energy to reconcile himself to the situation. 
Bondage was for him barely thinkable. Long years 
of waiting could not vanquish the assured hope that 
freedom would again be his, and he would carry further 
the projects that were as yet only half begun. 

Ralegh's intellectual activity was invincible, and there 
he found the main preservative against the numbing 
despair with which the prison's galling tedium menaced 


him. He was allowed some special privileges. At first, 
his lot was alleviated by the companionship of his 

wife and sons. Within the precincts of the 
J 1 e Tower and its garden he was apparently 

free to move about at will. But he con 
centrated all his mental strength while in confinement 
on study study of exceptionally varied kinds. Litera 
ture and science divided his allegiance. In a laboratory 
or still-house which he was allowed to occupy in the 

garden of the Tower he carried on a long 
Scientific e i i -\T e 

curiosit series of chemical experiments. Many of 

his scientific investigations proved successful ; 
he condensed fresh water from salt, an art which has 
only been practised generally during the past century. 
He compounded new drugs against various disorders ; 
these became popular and were credited with great 
efficacy. Chemistry, medicine, philosophy, all appealed 
to his catholic curiosity. Nevertheless his main in 
tellectual energy was absorbed by literature. The 
grandeur of human life and aspiration impressed him 
in his enforced retirement from the world more deeply 
than when he was himself a free actor on the stage. 

He designed a noble contribution to English 
the World P rose literature, his History of the World. 

He set himself the heavy task of surveying 
minutely and exactly human endeavours in the early 
days of human experience. He sought to write a 
history of the five great empires of the East of 
Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, Persia, and Macedonia. 
Only a fragment of the work was completed; it 
broke off abruptly one hundred and thirty years before 
the Christian era, with the conquest of Macedon by 
Rome. But Ralegh's achievement is a lasting memo- 


rial of his genius and of the elevated aspect of his 

Ralegh did not approach a study of history in a 
strictly critical spirit, and his massive accumulations of 
facts, which he collected from six or seven hundred 
volumes in many tongues, have long been superannu 
ated. But he showed enlightenment in many an unex 
pected direction. He betrayed a lively appreciation of 
the need of studying geography together with history, 
and he knew the value of chronological accuracy. His 
active imagination made him a master of historic por 
traiture, and historical personages like Artaxerxes, Queen 
Jezebel, Demetrius, Pyrrhus, or Epaminondas, are drawn 
with a master's pencil. 

Ralegh's methods were discursive. He often digressed 
from the ancient to the modern world. The insight 
which illumined his account of the heroes of 
a remote past was suffered now and again to 
play quite irrelevantly about the personalities 
of recent rulers of his own land. He was content to 
speak the truth as far as it was known, without fear of 
consequences. Of Henry vm. he writes uncompromis 
ingly, thus : ' If all the pictures and patterns of a merci 
less prince were lost in the world, they might all again 
be painted to the life out of the story of this king. For 
how many servants did he advance in haste (but for 
what virtue no man could suspect), and with the change 
of his fancy ruined again, no man knowing for what 
offence ! . . . What laws and wills did he devise, to 
establish this kingdom in his own issues? using his 
sharpest weapons to cut off and cut down those branches 
which sprang from the same root that himself did. And 
in the end (notwithstanding these his so many irreligious 


provisions) it pleased God to take away all his own 
without increase ; though, for themselves in their several 
kinds, all princes of eminent virtue.' The father of 
his late royal mistress could hardly have been more 
caustically limned. 

It was Ralegh's intense love of the present which 
frequently turned his narrative by devious paths far 
Criticism fr m his rightful topics of the past. He 
of current cannot resist the temptation of commenting 
events. freely on matters within his personal cog 
nisance as they rose to his mind in the silence of his 
prison cell. Despite the consequent irregularity of plan, 
his strange irrelevances endow the History in the sight 
of posterity with most of its freshness and originality. 
The mass of his material may be condemned as dry-as- 
dust, but the breath of living experience preserves sub 
stantial fragments of it from decay. A perennial interest 
attaches to Ralegh's suggestive treatment of philosophic 
questions, such as the origin of law. Remarks on the 
tactics of the Spaniards in the Armada, on the capture 
of Fayal in the Azores, on the courage of Elizabethan 
Englishmen, on the tenacity of Spaniards, on England's 
relations with Ireland, may be inappropriate to their 
Babylonian or Persian surroundings, but they reflect the 
first-hand knowledge of an observer of infinite mental 
resource, who never failed to express his own opinions 
with sincerity and dignity. His style, although often 
involved, is free from conceits, and keeps pace as a rule 
with the majesty of his design. 

The general design and style of Ralegh's History of 
the World are indeed more noteworthy than any details 
of its scheme or execution. The design is instinct with 
magnanimous insight into the springs of human action. 


Throughout it breathes a serious moral purpose. It 
illustrates the sureness with which ruin overtakes 'great 
conquerors and other troublers of the world ' The mora i 
who neglect law whether human or divine, purpose 
It is homage paid to the corner-stone of of the 
civilised society by one who knew at once enter P ns e- 
how to keep and how to break laws of both God 
and man. There is an inevitable touch of irony in 
Ralegh's large-hearted sermon. After showing how 
limitless is man's ambition and how rotten is its fruit 
unless it be restrained by respect for justice, Ralegh 
turns aside in his concluding pages to salute human 
greatness, however it may be achieved, as an empty 
dream. He closes his book with a sublime apostrophe 
to Death the destroyer, who is, after all, the sole arbiter 
of mortal man's destiny. 


But despite all his characteristic alertness of mind, 
Ralegh, while a prisoner in the Tower, was always look 
ing forward hopefully to the day of his 
release. His mind often reverted to that , ^ es 
land of gold, the exploration of which he had 
just missed completing eight or nine years before. The 
ambition to repeat the experiment grew on him. 
James i.'s Queen, and her son and heir, Henry, Prince 
of Wales, had always regarded Ralegh as the victim of 
injustice, and sympathised with his aspirations for liberty. 
They listened encouragingly to his pleas for a new expe 
dition to America. Ralegh was not ready to neglect the 
opportunity their favour offered him. From them he 
turned to petition the Privy Council and the King him- 


self. He would refuse no condition, if his prayer was 
granted. He offered to risk his head if he went once 
Thg more to the Orinoco and failed in his search, 

projected At length, after five years of pertinacious 
return to petitioning, the King yielded, perhaps at the 
Guiana. instigation of his new favourite, George 
Villiers, afterwards Duke of Buckingham, who antici 
pated profit from his complacence. Ralegh was released 
from the Tower after thirteen years' imprisonment ( i Qth 
March 1616), on the condition that he should make 
a new voyage to Guiana and secure the country's gold 
mines. At first Ralegh was ordered to live at his own 
house in the custody of a keeper, but this restriction 
was removed next year, and he was at liberty to make 
his preparations as he would. 

Ralegh was sixty-five years old, and although his 
spirit mounted high his health was breaking. Out of 
prison, he was a desolate old man without means or 
friends. There was no possibility of his planning to a 
successful issue a new quest of El Dorado. The project 
had to reckon, too, with powerful foes and critics. When 
the news of his expedition reached the ears of the 
Spanish Ambassador in London, he pro- 
protests tested that all Guiana was his master's 
property, and that Ralegh had no right to 
approach it. It was objected that Ralegh's design was 
a vulgar act of piracy. Ralegh was unmoved by the 
argument. He acknowledged no obligation to respect 
the scruples of onlookers at home or abroad. The 
assurances given by the Government that he would 
peacefully respect all rights of Spanish settlers in Guiana 
floated about him like the idle wind. 

All that Ralegh said or did when preparing to leave 


England increased the odds against him. His reputa 
tion sank lower and lower. Dangers and difficulties 
only rendered his mood more desperate. He was, like 
Banquo's murderer, 

' So weary with disasters, tugged with fortune, 
That he would set his life on any chance 
To mend it or be rid on't.' 

Few men of repute would bear him company. He 
cared not who went with him provided he went at all. 
It was an ill-omened crew that he collected. He filled 
his ship (he afterwards admitted) with the world's scum, 
with drunkards and blasphemers, and others whose 
friends were only too glad to pay money to get them 
out of the country. 

At length he started. But fortune frowned on him 
more fiercely than before. The weather was unpropi- 
tious. He had to put in off Cork. At length he 
weighed anchor for South America, but on the voyage 
fell ill of a fever. Arrived off the river Orinoco, he was 
successful in an attack on the new Spanish settlement 
at its mouth which bore the name of St. Thornd Care 
less of the promises solemnly made on his behalf by his 
Government, he rudely despoiled it and set fire to it ; 
but the doubtful triumph cost him the death of a com 
panion whom he could ill spare, his elder son Walter. 
Thenceforward absolute failure dogged his steps. His 
attempt to ascend the river was quickly defeated by the 
activity of the new Spanish settlers. Nothing Failure 
remained for him but to return home. He of the 
had failed in what he had pledged his head expedition, 
to perform ; contrary to conditions he had molested the 
Spanish settlement. He reached Plymouth in despair. 


An attempt at flight to France failed, and he was sent 
again to the Tower. 

One fate alone awaited him. He was already under 

sentence of death. By embroiling his country anew 

with Spain, he was held to have revived his 

Di ^ aC ?u old offence. The English judges declared, 
and death. , J . ~ 

harshly and with doubtful justice, that the 

old sentence must be carried out. The circumstance 
that ' he never had his pardon for his former treason ' 
was treated as argument which there was no controvert 
ing. Accordingly, on Wednesday, 2 8th October 1618, 
the ruined man was brought from the Tower to the bar 
of the King's Bench. He was asked by the Lord Chief 
Justice why he should not suffer ' execution of death,' 
according to the judgment of death ' for his treason in 
the first year of the king.' He offered protest, but his 
answer was deemed by the court to be insufficient. He 
was taken back to the prison, and the next day was 
appointed for the execution of the old sentence. ' He 
broke his fast early in the morning,' according to a con 
temporary annalist, and, to the scandal of many, smoked 
a pipe at the solemn moment ' in order to settle his 
spirits.' At eight o'clock he was conducted to a scaffold 
erected in Palace Yard, Westminster, outside the Houses 
of Parliament. 

Ralegh faced death boldly and without complaining. 
He talked cheerfully with those around him, and in a 
speech to the spectators thanked God that he was 
allowed 'to die in the light.' Speaking from written 
notes he traversed the various imputations that had 
been laid upon him, and concluded with the words, ' I 
have a long journey to take and must bid the company 
farewell.' As his fingers felt the edge of the axe, he 


smilingly said to the sheriffs : ' This is a sharp medicine, 
but it is a sure cure for all diseases.' Then he bade 
the reluctant executioner strike, and at two blows his 
head fell from his body. 

- 'After life's fitful fever he sleeps well.' The night 
before he ascended the scaffold he had penned the 
simple lines : 

' Even such is time, that takes in trust 
Our youth, our joys, our all we have, 
And pays us but with earth and dust ; 
. Who, in the dark and silent grave 

When we have wandered all our ways, 
; . Shuts up the story of our days. 

But from this earth, this grave, this dust, 
My God shall raise me up I trust.' 

He gave death welcome, when it arrived to claim 
him, in the same philosophic spirit that he had apos 
trophised it, a few years earlier, on putting the finishing 
stroke to his History of tJie World: *O eloquent, just, 
and mighty Death ! . . . thou hast drawn together all 
the far stretched greatness, all the pride, cruelty, and 
ambition of man, and covered it all over with these two 
narrow words Hicjacet!' 


Ralegh's final labour is the least admirable episode of 
his career:. It was a buccaneering raid, and admits of 
no eulogy,- even after we make allowance for T h e con . 
the strange circumstances in which it was temporary 
undertaken and suffer pity to temper con- estimate of 
demnation. It was a desperate bid for his Rale h - 
personal freedom. But his failure was punished with 



tragic injustice. His fate excited widespread lamenta 
tion. The facts seemed to the casual observer to be 
capable of more than one interpretation. His memory 
was long venerated as that of a man who sacrificed his 
life in an honest, public-spirited, magnanimous endeav 
our to injure his country's foes. 

Ralegh's character is an inextricable tangle of good 
and evil. ' What matter how the head lie ! ' he had said 
The good when placing his neck on the block. ' What 
and evil matter how the head lie so the heart be 
in his right ? ' Many of his countrymen deemed 

character, those words his fitting epitaph. But neither 
Ralegh's heart nor head was often quite in a righteous 
posture. He was physically as courageous, intellectu 
ally as resourceful and versatile, as any man known 
to history. He was a daring politician, soldier, sailor, 
traveller, and coloniser. He was a poet of exuberant 
fancy, a historian of solid industry and insight, and a 
political philosopher of depth. He ranks with the great 
writers of English prose. Things of the mind appealed 
to him equally with things of the senses or the sinews. 
Many serious-minded men treated his History of the 
World with hardly less respect and veneration than the 
Bible itself, and it was sedulously pressed in the seven 
teenth century on the attention of young men, whose 
minds lacked power of application, as mental ballast of 
the finest quality.* Yet it was mental ballast which 

* Cromwell the Protector, when he found his eldest son Richard 
wasting his time and energy in athletic pastime, bade him recreate 
himself with Sir Walter Ralegh's history. There was advantage, 
Cromwell deemed, in the work's massive proportions. ' It's a body 
of history,' Cromwell told his heir, 'and will add much more to 
your understanding than fragments of story.' Carlyle's Letters and 
Speeches of Cromwell, ii. 255. 


Ralegh's own character chiefly lacked. His manifold 
activity declined restraint. He rebelled against law. 
His actions were heedless of morality. He was proud, 
covetous, and unscrupulous. 

Yet the influence of his inevitable failures was greater 
than that of most men's successes. The main failure of 
his life was more fruitful than any ordinary 

triumph. His passion for colonial expansion, 

- , , r - . ' and success. 

for the settlement of America by Englishmen, 

lost in course of time almost every trace of the idealism 
in which it took rise. Exaggerated hopes of gain, a 
swollen spirit of aggressiveness, ultimately robbed his 
endeavours of true titles to respect. His final effort led 
to little apparent result beyond the loss of his own head ; 
his fellow-countrymen never gained the mastery of South 
America; they never obtained exclusive possession of 
its mines, the desperate cause in which Ralegh flung 
away his life. None the less the spur that his appar 
ently barren and ill-conceived exploits gave to English 
colonising cannot be over-estimated. All xhe true 
over the world Englishmen subsequently founder of 
worked in his spirit. But it is his primary Virginia, 
attempt to create a New England in the Northern Con 
tinent of America which gives him his genuine creden 
tials to fame. It was an attempt on which he lavished 
his fortune in the spirit of a dreamer, and at the time it 
seemed, like so much that Ralegh sought to do, to be 
made in vain. Yet it was mainly due to his influence, 
if not to the work of his hands, that the great English 
settlements of Virginia and New England came into 
being, and gave religious and political liberty, spiritual 
and intellectual energy, a new home, a new scope, 
wherein to develop to the advantage of the human race. 


However sternly the moralist may condemn Ralegh's 
conduct in the great crises of his career, he must in 
justice admit that the good that Ralegh did lives after 
him, while the evil was for the most part buried with 
his bones. Dark shadows envelop much of his life 
and death, but there are patches of light which are 



' A sweeter swan than ever sang in Po, 
A shriller nightingale than ever blessed 
The prouder groves of self-admiring Rome ! 
Blithe was each valley, and each shepherd proud, 
While he did chant his rural minstrelsy ; 
Attentive was full many a dainty ear ; 
Nay, hearers hung upon his melting tongue, 
While sweetly of his Faerie Queene he sung, 
While to the waters' fall he tun'd her fame.' 

The Return from Parnassus, II. i. 2. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. The memoir by Dean Church in the 
' Men of Letters ' series is a useful critical biography in 
brief compass. The ' Globe ' edition of the port's work, 
with an introductory memoir by Prof. J. W. Hales, 
supplies a good text. Of the ten volumes of Dr. Grosart's 
privately printed edition of the works (1880-2), the first 
volume is devoted to biography by the general editor, and 
to critical essays from many competent pens. Of earlier 
critical editions of Spenser the chief is that by Henry John 
Todd, which was issued in eight volumes in 1805. A 
good criticism of Spenser appears in James Russell 
Lowell's Essays on the English Poets.~\ 

LITERATURE was a recreation of all men of spirit in the 
Elizabethan age. It mattered little whether or no they 
were heirs of great genius. Literature was almost uni- 


versally the occupation of such leisure as could be 
snatched from the practical affairs of the world. States- 
The Eliza- men an( ^ soldiers, in their hours of ease, 
bethan courted the Muses with assiduity. These 
pursuit of damsels might discourage their advances, 
poetry. but fa e suitors were persistent. Poetry was 
the politest of recreations ; verses were delightful ' toys 
to busy idle brains.' Queen Elizabeth and her suc 
cessor James I. are of the number of English authors 
in both poetry and prose. ' To evaporate their thoughts 
in a sonnet ' was ' the common way ' of almost all 
nobles and courtiers, who concentrated their main 
energies on sport, politics, and war. At the same time 
the professional pursuit of letters the writing of books 
for money, the reliance on the pen for a livelihood 
was held to be degrading. Literature was not reckoned 
to be in any sense a profession fit for a man of high 
birth to follow. It was the gorgeous ornament or 
plaything of life, and no approved source of its sus 
tenance. ' 

Not that literary work failed on occasion to prove re 
munerative. From one branch of Elizabethan literature 

from the drama there were dazzling 
Profits of ,. , , . . . ,. 

literature P ronts to be drawn. An inevitable measure 

of social prestige attached in the Elizabethan, 
no less than in other eras, to substantial property ; yet 
to property that was derived from the exercise of the 
pen social prestige could only attach in Elizabethan 
society after the owner had ceased to write for a living. 
Shakespeare bore convincing testimony to the strength 
of the prevailing mistrust of any professional pursuit of 
letters by retiring, at a comparatively early age, from 
active work, in order to enjoy, unhampered by the con- 


ventional prejudice, the material fruits of his past 

A poet by nature, of intensely aesthetic instinct, 
Spenser lacked inherited sources of livelihood ; but the 
social sentiment of the era compelled him to 
seek a career elsewhere than in literature. 
In a far larger and higher sense than his 
friends Sir Philip Sidney or Sir Walter Ralegh he was a 
favoured servant of the Muses. But he, no more than 
they, reckoned poetry to be his practical concern in 
life. Political service, endeavour to gain remunerative 
political office, coloured his career as it coloured theirs. 
He knew the vanity of political ambitions. But oppor 
tunities of quiet contemplation apart from the haunts of 
politicians, opportunities for cultivating in seclusion his 
great literary genius, were not what he asked of those 
who had it in their power to fashion his line of life. 
Unlike his great successor Tennyson, with whom his 
affinities are many, he deliberately engaged in business 
which lay outside Parnassian fields. He sought with 
zeal and persistency political employment and official 

As an officer of state, Spenser achieved small repute 
or reward. The record of his worldly struggles is sordid 
and insignificant. Often, amid the entangle- ^he con- 
ments and disappointments of political strife, trast with 
did he give voice to that cry of the Psalmist, his poetic 
which his contemporary, Francis Bacon, zeal> 
pathetically echoed, that his life was passed in a strange 
land. It was only as a poet that he won happiness or 
renown. It is only as a supreme poet of the English 
Renaissance that he lives. Imbued from boyhood with 
the spirit of the new learning, he was in rarest sympathy 


with the classics, and with the literature of contemporary 
Italy and France. An innate delight in the harmonies 
of language grew with his years. A passion for beauty 
dominated his thought. Although he was brought up 
in the new religion of Protestantism and accepted it 
without demur, doctrinal religion laid her hand lightly 
on his intellect. It was in an ideal world that he 
found the objects of his worship. None the less, in 
order to realise the manner of man Spenser was, and 
the sturdy links which bound him to his age, his vain 
political endeavours must find on the biographer's 
canvas hardly a smaller place than his splendid poetic 


Spenser, who ranks second to Shakespeare among 
Elizabethan poets, was a native of London. Like Sir 
His Thomas More, he was a native of the capital 

humble city of the kingdom, but he came of a sub- 
birth, stantial family whose home was elsewhere, in 
Lancashire. He was a distant relative of the noble 
house of Spencer, many members of which have played 
an important part in English political history. But 
however good Spenser's descent, his father was a 
London tradesman, a journeyman cloth-maker, who was 
at one time in the service of a wool-dealer. 

The poet was born, probably in 1552 the year of 
Ralegh's birth in East Smithfield. About his birth 
place there glowed in his infancy the fires 
place ^ ^ reu gi us intolerance intolerance of that 
blind and inconsequent type which first won 
Sir Thomas More's allegiance, and then, shifting the 
quarter from which it blew, drove him to the scaffold. 


But when Spenser was six years of age, the sway of 
unreason was brought to a stand. The fanatic Catholic, 
Queen Mary, died, and with the accession of Q uee n 
Queen Elizabeth to the throne the spirit of Elizabeth's 
the nation found a practicable equilibrium, accession. 
Protestantism with a promise of peace was in the 
ascendant; Catholicism, although by no means ex 
orcised, was not in a position to pursue open hostilities. 
Another six years passed, and while the nation was 
enjoying its first taste of security, Shakespeare was born. 
But the interval which separated Shakespeare from 
Spenser was wider than that difference of twelve years 
in their dates of birth suggests. Shakespeare belonged 
exclusively to Elizabethan England, which saw the 
final development of Renaissance culture. Spenser's 
memory reached further back and absorbed many an 
ideal and thought which were nearly obsolete when 
Shakespeare began to write. The mass of Shakespeare's 
work belongs to the epoch which followed Spenser's 
death. Spenser's elder genius flowered and passed 
away before Shakespeare's younger genius was of full 

But the two men's outward careers ran at the first on 
much the same lines. There was a strong resemblance 
between the circumstances of Spenser's boy- 
hood and of Shakespeare's, which it behoves 
sceptics of the admitted facts of Shakespeare's 
biography to study closely. In spite of the claim of 
Spenser's father to high descent, his walk in life was 
similar to that of Shakespeare's father. Better educa 
tional opportunities were open to a tradesman's son in 
London than to a tradesman's son in a small village, but 
their superiority is easily capable of exaggeration. The 


trade or guild of merchant tailors, with which the elder 
Spenser was distantly connected, had lately founded a 
new school in London the Merchant Taylors' School 
for sons of tailors. To that school, which still flourishes, 
Edmund Spenser was sent as a boy, under very like con 
ditions to those which brought Shakespeare to the 
grammar school of Stratford-on-Avon. 

Spenser's headmaster was an enlightened teacher, 
Richard Mulcaster, who believed in physical as well 
At as intellectual training; who thought girls 

Merchant deserved as good an education as boys ; 
Taylors' who urged the importance of instruction in 
School. music and singing ; and who turned a deaf 
ear to the prayers of cockering mothers and indulgent 
fathers when appeal was made to him to mitigate the 
punishment of pupils. Spenser's headmaster had im 
bibed the spirit of pedagogy as Plato first taught it, and 
More and Ascham had developed it in the light of the 
Renaissance. But the elder Spenser was not well off, 
and no special attention was paid his son. The boy's 
school-days threatened to be short. Happily a 
merchant had lately left large sums of money to be 
bestowed on poor London scholars poor scholars of 
the schools about London and under this benefaction 
Edmund received much-needed assistance. Such 
charities as that by which Spenser benefited were 
numerous in Elizabethan England, and charitable funds 
were largely applied to the noble purpose of assisting 
poor lads to complete their education. What American 
merchants are doing now for education in their country 
more conspicuously than elsewhere, Elizabethan mer 
chants were doing for education in Elizabethan Eng 
land. It was owing to this enlightened application of 


wealth that Spenser was enabled to finish his school 

Promising boys of Elizabethan England, whether 
rich or poor, were encouraged to pursue their studies at 
the Universities on leaving school, even if 
their parents could not supply them with brid * m ~ 
means of subsistence. The college endow 
ments would carry a poor student through the greater 
part of an academic career, and might at need be 
supplemented by private munificence. Spenser went to 
Cambridge to Pembroke Hall (or College) trusting 
for pecuniary support to the college endowments. He 
was compelled to enter the College in the lowest rank, 
the rank of a sizar. Sizars were indigent students who, 
in consideration of their poverty and in exchange for 
menial service, were given food, drink, and lodging. 

At Pembroke, Spenser found congenial society. The 
college had not yet acquired its literary traditions. It 
was long afterwards that it became the home 
of the poet Crashaw, and later still of the 
poet Gray. Spenser himself was the first 
poet, alike in point of time and of eminence, to associate 
his name with the foundation. But to contemporary 
members of the college he owed much. A young 
Fellow of the College, Gabriel Harvey, an ardent but 
pedantic student of literature, took deep interest in him 
and greatly influenced his literary tastes. Harvey re 
inforced in his pupil a passion for classical learning, 
which the boy had acquired at school, and encouraged 
him to pursue a study of French and Italian literature, 
to which on his own initiative he had already devoted 
his leisure. A young fellow-sizar, Edward Kirke, also 
became a warm admirer and stimulating friend. 


From a lad Spenser was a close student and a wide 
reader, and gave early promise of poetic eminence. He 

was attracted not merely by the classics, the 
^ 1 r s se earliest orthodox subject of study at school and 

college, but by French and Italian literature. 
Almost as a schoolboy he began to translate into 
English the poetry of France. Before he went to 
Cambridge he prepared for a London publisher metrical 
translations of poems by Du Bellay, a scholarly spirit of 
the Renaissance in France, and he also rendered into 
seven English sonnets an ode of Petrarch, the great 
Italian master of the sonnet, from the version of the 
early French poet Clement Marot. It was through his 
knowledge of French that the gate to the vast and 
varied literature of Italy opened to him. Both Petrarch's 
and Du Bellay's verses described the uncertainties of 
human life and the fickleness of human fortune. 
Spenser's renderings were merely inserted by an in 
dulgent publisher as letterpress to be attached to old 
woodcuts in his possession. Letterpress is a humiliat 
ing position for literature to fill, but the youth was con 
tent to get his first poetic endeavours into type on any 
conditions. Spenser's ambition at the time was satisfied 
when a tedious Dutch treatise of morality appeared in 
English with his earliest poems irrelevantly introduced 
as explanations of the pictorial illustrations that adorned 
the opening pages. The musical temper of Spenser's 
boyish verse argued well for the future, but no critic at 
the time discerned its potentiality. 

While an undergraduate Spenser suffered alike from 
poverty and ill-health. Small sums of money were 
granted to him as a poor scholar from the old bequest 
which had benefited him at school, and he was often 


disabled by sickness. He remained however at Cam 
bridge for the exceptionally long period of seven years. 
He took the degree of Master of Arts in 
1576, and then left the University. He 
always speaks of Cambridge of 'my mother 
Cambridge' with respect. He wrote in a well- 
known passage of the Faerie Queene how the River 
Ouse which runs near Cambridge 

' doth by Huntingdon and Cambridge flit, 
My mother Cambridge, whom as with a crown 
He [i.e. the river] doth adorn and is adorn'd of it 
With many a gentle muse and many a learned wit.' * 

Spenser was himself in due time to adorn his Alma 
Mater ' as with a crown ' by virtue of his c gentle muse ' 
and ' learned wit.' 


When Spenser's Cambridge life closed, he was no 
less than twenty-four years old. That was a mature age 
in those days for a man to be entering on a Disappoint- 
career, and even then, owing to his feeble ment in 
constitution, he seems to have been in no love - 
haste to seek a settlement. The omens were none too 
favourable. In poor health, without money or pros 
pects, he apparently idled away another year with his 
kinsfolk, his cousins, in Lancashire. There, having 
nothing better to do, he fell in love. The object of 
his affections was, we are told, a gentlewoman, of no 
mean house, ' endowed with no vulgar or common gifts 
of nature or manners.' But the lady disdained the poet's 

* Faerie Queene, Bk. iv., canto xi., stanza xxxiv. 


suit, and he sought consolation in verse. Antiquaries 
have tried to discover the precise name of the lady, but 
beyond the fact that she was the daughter of a Lanca 
shire yeoman, nothing more needs saying of her. 

Spenser's failure in his amorous adventure was, 
despite the passing grief it caused him, beneficial. It 

stirred him to fresh exertions alike in poetry 
Settlement and th affa j rg Qf the worfi Re resolved to 
in .London. 

seek in London greater happiness than 

Lancashire offered him, and the means of earning an 
honourable livelihood. Gabriel Harvey, his Cambridge 
friend, strongly urged on him the prudence of seeking 
employment in the capital. Harvey prided himself on 
his influence in high circles. His activity at Cambridge 
made him known to all visitors of distinction to the 
University. He knew the Queen's favourite, the Earl 
of Leicester, the uncle of Sir Philip Sidney, who had it 
in his power to advance any aspirant to fortune. To 
Leicester, Harvey gave Spenser an introduction. That 
introduction proved the true starting-point of Spenser's 
adult career. 

Like all Queen Elizabeth's courtiers Leicester had 
literary tastes. He was favourably impressed by the 
The patron- young poet and offered him secretarial em- 
age of ployment. Spenser's duties required him to 
Leicester. i{ ve a t Leicester House, the Earl's great 
London mansion. Literary sympathies overcame, in 
Elizabethan England, class distinctions, and Spenser 
the impecunious tailor's son was suddenly thrown into 
close relations with fashionable London society. Many 
poor young men of ability and character owed all their 
opportunities in life to wealthy noblemen of the day. 
The friendly -union between patron and poet often bred 


strong mutual affection, and was held to confer honour 
on both. Spenser's relations with Leicester were of the 
typical kind. They were easy and amiable. The poet 
felt pride in the help and favour that the Earl bestowed 
on him, although he was not backward in pressing his 
claims to preferment. Spenser describes with ungrudg 
ing admiration Leicester's influential place in the State 

' A mighty prince, of most renowned race, 
Whom England high in count of honour held, 
And greatest ones did sue to gain his grace ; 
Of greatest ones he greatest in his place, 
Sate in the bosom of his sovereign, 
And " Right and Loyal " did his word maintain.' * 

Referring to his own relations with his patron, he ex 
claimed : 

' And who so else did goodness by him gain ? 
And who so else his bounteous mind did try ? ' * 

Leicester stands to Spenser in precisely the same 
relation as the Earl of Southampton stands to Shake 

Spenser had at Leicester House much leisure for 
study. He wrote poems for his patron. He read 

largely for himself, presenting books to his 

r . / TT ,-. Secretarial 

friend Harvey, who sent him others in return. work 

But his office was no sinecure. He was sent 
abroad in behalf of his patron, usually as the bearer of 
despatches. In Leicester's service he paid a first visit to 
Ireland, and went on official errands to France, Spain, 
and Italy, notably to Rome, and even further afield. 
Foreign travel nurtured his imagination, and widened 

* Jiuirus of Time, 11. 184-189. t Ibid., 11. 232-233. 


his knowledge of the literary efforts of French and 
Italian contemporaries. 

Spenser's connection with Leicester brought him the 
acquaintance of a more attractive personality Leicester's 

fascinating nephew, Sir Philip Sidney. The 
Sidn 11P acquaintance rapidly ripened into a deep 

and tender friendship, and exerted an excel 
lent influence, morally and intellectually, on both 
young men. 

Thus, in 1579, when Spenser was about twenty-seven 
years old, Fortune seemed to smile on him. He 

mixed freely with courtiers and politicians, 

and was in close touch with all that was 

most enlightened in London society. Amid 
such environment his poetic genius acquired new energy 
and confidence. He was ambitious to excel in all forms 
of literary composition, and he was in doubt which to 
essay first. He confided his perplexities to his friend 
and tutor Harvey. Harvey was a pedantic and short 
sighted counsellor. He was no wise adviser of one 
endowed with great original genius which was best left 
to seek an independent course. Harvey's passion for 
the classics, and his absorption in the study of them, 
distorted his judgment. English poetry was in his 
mind a branch of classical scholarship. Hitherto the 
art of poetry had, in his opinion, been practised to best 
advantage by Latin writers. Consequently, English 
poetry, were it to attain perfection, ought to imitate 
Latin verse, alike in metre and ideas. Harvey's theory 
was based on a very obvious misconception. Poetry 
can only flourish if it be free to adapt itself to the 
idiosyncrasy of the poet's mother-tongue. Accent, not 
quantity, is alone adaptable to poetry in the English 


language. English verse which ignores such considera 
tions cannot reach the poetic level. 

Yet for a time Harvey's views prevailed with Spenser. 
He defied a great law of nature and of art, and did 
violence to his bent, in order to essay the 
hopeless task of naturalising in English verse 
metrical rules which the English language 
rejects. In the meetings of the literary club of the 
' Areopagus ' which Leicester's friends and dependents 
formed at Leicester House, Spenser, Sidney, and others 
debated, at Harvey's instance, the application to 
English poetry of the classical rules of metrical quantity. 
Spenser joined the company in making many experi 
ments in Latinised English verse, a few of which survive. 
The result was an uncouth sort of verbiage, lumbering 
or wallowing in harsh obscurity. Happily Spenser 
quickly perceived that no human power could fit the 
English language to classical metres ; he saw the weak 
ness of the pedantic arguments. It was well that he 
escaped the classicists' toils. It was needful that he 
should deliberately reject false notions of English verse 
before his genius could gain an open road. 

The first serious poetic efforts that Spenser designed 
in his adult years are lost, if they were ever completed. 

Soon after he had settled at Leicester House, 
o i j i_ e j t. Poetic ex- 

Spenser told his friends he was penning nine per i ments 

comedies, to be called after the nine Muses, 
in the manner of the books of Herodotus's History, An 
account of his patron's family history and chief ancestors 
was also occupying his pen ; fragments of this design, 
perhaps, survive in the elegy on his patron which he 
subsequently incorporated in his Ruines of Time. He 
seems to have sketched a lost prose work called The 


English Poet> an essay on literary criticism, which, like 
Sidney's Apologie for Poe/rie, was intended to prove 
poetry (so a friend of Spenser reported) to be ' a divine 
gift and heavenly instinct not to be gotten by labour 
and learning, but adorned with both, and poured into 
the wit by a certain enthousiasmos and celestial inspira 
tion.'* Spenser, having cut himself adrift of pedantic 
classicism, adopted a view no less exalted than that of 
Shelley of the constituent elements of genuine poetry. 
Even more important is it to note that Spenser had 
found the form of poetic endeavour, at this early epoch, 
which best suited his ethical and artistic temper. His 
ambitious allegorical epic or moral romance, which he 
called the Faerie Queene^ dates from the outset of his 
literary career. He sent some portion to Harvey as 
early as the autumn of 1579, at the moment when he 
was recanting his tutor's classical heresy. Harvey was 
naturally not impressed by a project which he had not 
advised, and which ignored or defied his pedantic prin 
ciples of poetic art. The design was in Harvey's eyes 
an unwarranted innovation, a deflection from tried and 
well-trodden paths. Spenser was not encouraged by 
Harvey to hurry on. The discouragement had some 
effect. Ten years elapsed before any portion of the 
poem was sent to press. Spenser was shy and sensi 
tive by nature. He could not ignore critical censure. 
But happily other friends, of better judgment than 
Harvey, urged him to persevere. 

* Cf. Argument before Tht Shepheards Calender, Eclogue x. 



Spenser's ascent of Parnassus was not greatly preju 
diced by Harvey's misleading counsel. Temporarily 
abandoning the Faerie Queene, he turned The Shep- 
to work for which precedent was more heards 
abundant. He completed and caused to Calender. 
be printed, before the close of 1579 a year very event 
ful in his career a poem which left enlightened critics 
in no doubt of his powers. 

Spenser's first extant poem of length, which he called 
The Shepheards Calender, consisted of twelve dialogues 
or eclogues spoken in dialogue by shepherds, 
one for every month of the year. The design 
of the volume followed foreign models of 
acknowledged repute. Greek pastoral poetry of Theoc 
ritus and Bion was its foundation, modified by study 
of Virgil's Eclogues and of many French and Italian 
examples of more recent date. Mantuanus and Sanaz- 
zaro among Italian poets, and Clement Marot among 
Frenchmen, commanded Spenser's full allegiance. The 
title was borrowed from an English translation in current 
use of a popular French Almanac known as Kalendrier 
des Bergers, and the debt to Marot's French eclogues is 
especially large. The names of the speakers Thenot 
and Colin are of Marot's invention, and in two of the 
eclogues Spenser confines himself to adaptation of 
Marot's verse. Everywhere he gives proof of reading 
and respect for authority. His friends freely acknow 
ledged that he piously 'followed the footing' of the 
excellent poets of Greece, Rome, France, and Italy. 

It was not only abroad that Spenser's genius sought 
sustenance. Although he was fascinated by the varied 


charms of foreign literary effort, he was not oblivious of 
the literary achievement of his own country. English 
poetry had not of late progressed at the same rate as 
the poetry of Italy or France, But a poetic tradition 
had come into being in fourteenth-century England. 
Spenser was attracted by it, and he believed himself 
capable of continuing it. He was eager to enrol him 
self under the banner of the greatest of his English 
predecessors, of Chaucer. By way of proving 
u ogy o ^ e s j ncer j t y o f hj s patriotic allegiance, he 
took toll openly of the English poet, even 
exaggerating the extent of his indebtedness.* His 
direct eulogy of Chaucer under the name of Tityrus 
is a splendid declaration of homage on the younger 
poet's part to the old master of English poetry. 

' The God of Shepherds, Tityrus, is dead, 
Who taught me homely, as I can, to make ; 
He, whilst he lived, was the sovereign head 
Of shepherds all that bene with love ytake ; 
Well couth he wail his woes, and lightly slake 
The flames which love within his heart had bred, 
And tell us merry tales to keep us wake, 
The while our sheep about us safely fed. 

?*ow dead is he, and lieth wrapt in lead, 

(O ! why should death on him such outrage show !) 

And all his passing skill with him is fled 

The fame whereof doth daily greater grow. 

But if on me some little drops would flow 

Of that the spring was in his learned head, 

I soon would learn these woods to wail my woe, 

And teach the trees their trickling tears to shed.'f 

* In Eclogue II. (February) Spenser pretends to quote from 
Chaucer the fable of the oak and the briar. The alleged quotation 
seems to be entirely of Spenser's invention. 

t The Shephcards Calender, June, lines 81-96. 


No poftm of supreme worth ever crept into the world 
more modestly or made larger avowal of obligation to 
poetry of the past than The Shepheards 

Calender. Spenser, who merely claimed to e cntlcal 

, , , . , . } . apparatus, 

be trying his ' tender wings ' in strict accord 

with precedent, hesitated to announce himself as the 
author. The book was inscribed anonymously on its 
title-page to his friend Sir Philip Sidney, and in a little 
prefatory poem which he characteristically signed 'Im- 
merito,' he fitly entitles his patron 'the president of 
noblesse and chivalry.' A college friend, Edward 
Kirke, emphasised the work's dependence on the 
ancient ways in a dedicatory epistle to the scholar 
Gabriel Harvey ; and the same hand liberally scattered 
through the volume notes and glosses, which empha 
sised the poet's loans from the accepted masters of 
his craft. Owing to Spenser's anxiety to link himself 
to the latest period remote as it was when English 
poetry had conspicuously flourished, the vocabulary 
was deliberately archaic. Foreign examples justified 
such procedure. Kirke explained that, after the manner 
of the Greek pastoral poets who affected the rustic 
Doric dialect, Spenser 'laboured to restore as to their 
rightful heritage such good and natural English words 
as had been long time out of use and clean disin 

Kirke's sincere enthusiasm for his author neutralises 
the prejudice which lovers of poetry commonly cherish 
against officious editorial comment. He justifies his 
intervention between reader and author on the some 
what equivocal ground that although Spenser was an 
imitator, his imitations were often so devised that 
only ' such as were (like his editor) well scented ' 


in the hunt after foreign originals could 'trace them 

But the range of topics of The Shepheards Calender 

suggests to the least observant reader that there is exag- 

. geration in the editor's repeated denial of 

the poet's ability to walk alone or to strike 
out new paths for himself. Spenser naturally pursues 
the old pastoral roads in discoursing of the pangs of 
despised love of which he had had his own experience, 
of the woes of age and of the joys of youth ; but there 
is individuality in his treatment of the well-worn themes, 
and he does not confine himself to them. In his con 
trasts between the virtues of Protestantism and the vices 
of Popery he handles problems of theology which his 
poetic predecessors had not essayed. The interlocutors 
are the poet himself and his friends and patron under 
disguised names, and he does not repress his private 
sentiments or idiosyncrasies. Of his personal beliefs 
he makes impressive confession in his tenth eclogue, in 
which he ' complaineth of the contempt of poetry and 
the causes thereof.' Theocritus and Mantuanus had 
already condemned monarchs and statesmen for failure 
to respect the votaries of 'peerless poesy.' Spenser 
followed in their wake, but the ardour with which he 
pleads the poet's cause is his own, and the argument 
had never before been couched in finer harmonies. 

Despite its large dependence on earlier literary effort, 
the value of The Shepheards Calender lies ultimately not 

(as its editor would have us believe) in the 
value. dexterity of its adaptations, but in the proof 

it offers of the original calibre of Spenser's 
poetic genius. Historically important as it is for the 
student and critic to note and to define what a poet 


takes from others, of greater importance is it for them 
to note and to define what a poet makes of his borrow 
ings. In the first place, The Shepheards Calender shows 
a faculty for musical modulation of words, of which only 
the greatest practisers of the poetic art are capable. It 
is a peculiar quality of Spenser's power to manipulate 
the metre so that it moves as the sense dictates, now 
slowly and solemnly, now quickly and joyfully. In the 
second place, the thought is clothed in a picturesque 
simplicity, which is the fruit of the poet's personality. 
The life and truthfulness of the pictures are the outcome 
of the poet's individual affinities with the poetic aspects 
of nature and humanity. 

Since the death of Chaucer no poet of a distinction 
similar to that of Spenser had come to light in England. 
The Shepheards Calender was not without jt s place 
signs of immaturity ; the melodies of the in English 
verse were interrupted by awkward disso- poetry, 
nances and by feeble or discordant phrases. But its 
merits far out-distanced its defects and it worthily 
inaugurated a new era of English poetry. It proved 
beyond risk of denial that there had arisen a poet of 
genius fit to rank above all preceding English poets 
save only Chaucer, who died nearly two centuries 
before. It is to the credit of the age that this great 
fact, despite editorial endeavours to disguise it, was 
straightway recognised. ' He may well wear the garland 
and step before the best of all English poets that I have 
seen or heard,' wrote one early reader of The Shepheards 
Calender. Drayton, the reputed friend of Shakespeare, 
declared that 'Master Edmund Spenser had done enough 
for the immortality of his name had he only given us 
his The S/iepheards Calender, a masterpiece if any.' 


Masterpieces had been scarce in English literature 
since Chaucer produced his Canterbury Tales. 

Elizabethan poetry brought its makers honourable 
recognition, but it did not bring them pecuniary re- 
The poet's war ^- Spenser had entered Leicester's 
complaint service in order to obtain an office which 
of his should produce a regular revenue. But as 

patron. ^g mon ths went on, Spenser suffered dis 
appointment at his patron's hands. Leicester was not 
as zealous in the poet's interest as the poet hoped. 
The services which he rendered his patron seemed to 
him to be inadequately recognised. He expected more 
from his master than board and lodging. His dissatis 
faction found vent in a rendering of the poem called 
'Virgil's Gnat' 

' Wronged, yet not daring to express my pain,' 

the poet dedicated the apologue to his 'excellent' lord 
'the causer of my care.' He likened himself to the 
gnat, which, in the poem, rouses a sleeping shepherd to 
repel a serpent's attack by stinging his eyelid, and then 
is thoughtlessly brushed aside and slain by him whom 
the insect delivers from peril. 

Spenser probably wrote in a moment of temporary 
annoyance, and exaggerated the injury done him by the 
Offi ' 1 ^ ar ^' Happily a change of fortune was at 
promotion, ^ an d> and his irritation with Leicester passed 
away. Although there is no reason for re 
garding the sequence of events as other than accidental, 


it was within six months of the publication of The 
Shepheards Calender, that the poet was offered a 
remunerative and responsible post. He accepted the 
office of secretary to a newly-appointed Lord Deputy 
of Ireland, and the course of his life was completely 

In the summer of 1580 Spenser left England prac 
tically for good. Though he thrice revisited his native 
land, Ireland was his home for his remaining 
nineteen years of life. At the outset he 1 | ra , ^ 
accepted the post in the faith that it would 
prove a stepping-stone to high political office in Eng 
land. Permanent exile he never contemplated with 
complacency. London was his native place and the 
seat of government, and it was his ambition to enjoy 
there profitable and dignified employment. But this 
was not to be, and as the prospect of preferment grew 
dim, his spirit engendered an irremovable melancholy 
and discontent. He bewailed his unhappy fate with 
the long-drawn bitterness of Ovid among the Scyth 
ians. He declared himself to be a 'forlorn wight' 
who was banished to a 'waste,' and there was 'quite 

Sixteenth-century Ireland had few attractions for an 
English poet. The country was torn asunder by inter 
necine strife. The native Irish were in per- 

...., , The Irish 

petual revolt against their English rulers. pro bi em 

The Spaniards, anxious to injure England 
at every point, were ready to fan Irish disaffection, 
and were always threatening to send ships and men to 
encourage active rebellion. The air was infected by 
barbarous cruelty, by suffering and poverty. To 
Spenser's gentle and beauty-loving nature, violence and 


pain were abhorrent, but he had no chance of escape 
from the hateful environment, and familiarity with the 
sordid scenes had the natural effect of dulling, even in 
his sensitive brain, the active sense of repulsion to its 
worst evils. Though he never reconciled himself to 
the conditions of Irish life or government, and vaguely 
hoped for mitigation of their horrors, he assimilated 
the views of the governing class to which he belonged, 
and became an advocate of the coercion of the natives 
to whose wrongs he gave no attentive ear. 

Self-interest, too, insensibly moulded his political 
views. Having entered the official circle in Ireland, he 
Early eagerly sought opportunities of improving 

friends in his material fortunes. He yearned for the 
Ireland. rewards of political life in England, but he 
came to realise that if those prizes were beyond his 
reach, he must accommodate himself to the more 
limited scope of advancement in Ireland. There he 
met with moderate success. He was quickly the recip 
ient of many profitable posts in Dublin, which he held 
together with his secretaryship to the Lord Deputy. 
He was also granted much land, in accordance with the 
English policy, which encouraged English settlers in 
Ireland. Happily, there was some worthier mitigation 
of his lot His official colleagues included some con 
genial companions whose sympathy with his literary 
ambitions went some way to counteract the griefs of 
his Irish experience. In Lord Grey, his Chief, the 
governor of the country, Spenser found one who in 
spired him with affection and respect. To Lord 
Grey's nobility of nature the poet paid splendid tribute 
in his description of Sir Artegal, the knight of justice 
in the Faerie Queene (Book iv. canto ii.). A humbler 


colleague, Lodowick Bryskett, was a zealous lover of 
literature; he occupied a little cottage near Dublin, 
and often invited Spenser and others to engage there 
in literary debate. There the poet talked with engag 
ing frankness and modesty of his literary ambitions and 

Spenser's temperament was prone to seek the guid 
ance and countenance of others. It was fortunate that 
Ireland did not withhold from him the encouragement 
which was needful to stimulate poetic exertion. It was 
not likely that the poetic impulse would be conquered 
by his migration, but in the absence of sympathetic 
companions its activity would doubtless have slackened, 
and he would have wanted the confidence to give to the 
world its fruits. As things turned out, his enthusiasm 
for his art increased rather than diminished in his retire 
ment. Literary composition provided congenial relief 
from the routine work of his office. At the entreaty of 

his friends, he took up again his great work 
< T- s^ -it -^ i j His poetic 

the Faene Queene, with its scene laid in an exert i ons 

imaginary fairyland, to which the poetic 
humour could carry him from any point of the earth's 
surface. At the same time he made many slighter 
excursions in verse, of which the most beautiful was 
his lament for the premature death of his friend and 
patron, Sir Philip Sidney. No sweeter imagery ever 
adorned an elegy than that to be met with in Spen 
ser's 'Astrophel, a pastorall Elegie upon the death of 
the most noble and valorous knight Sir Philip Sidney.' 
His brain could summon at will ethereal visions which 
the sordid environment of his Irish career could 
neither erase nor blur. He was no careless pleasure- 
seeking official; he did his official work thoroughly, 


although not brilliantly. There was strange contrast 
between the poet's official duties and the intellectual 
and spiritual aspirations which filled his brain while he 
laboured at the official oar. 


After eight years, Spenser left London to take up a 
new and more dignified post in the South of Ireland. 
Removal to He was made clerk of the Council of 
the south Munster, the southern province, a prosaic 
of Ireland, office for which poetic genius was small 
qualification. He took active part in the work of plant 
ing or colonising with Englishmen untenanted land, or 
land from which native holders were evicted. Spenser 
thought it perfectly just to evict the natives ; it is doubt 
ful if he saw any crime in exterminating them. New 
tracts of land were given him by way of encouragement 
in the neighbourhood of Cork. He took up his resi 
dence in the old castle of Kilcolman, three miles from 
Doneraile, in County Cork. It was surrounded by 
woodland scenery, and the prospect was as soothing to 
the human brain as any that a 'poet could wish. The 
house is now an ivy-covered ruin, while the surrounding 
scenery has gained in fulness and in richness of aspect. 

But the beauty of nature brought to Spenser in 
Ireland little content or happiness. It was on his 
Quarrels management of 'the world of living men,' 
with not on a placid survey of ' wood and stream 

neighbours. an( j fi e id an( j hm* and ocean ' that his 
material welfare depended. He had not the tact and 
social diplomacy needful for the maintenance of har 
mony with his rude, semi-civilised neighbours. With 


the landlords of estates contiguous to his wn he was 
constantly engaged in litigation, and was often under 
dread of physical conflict. 

Nevertheless, one source of relief from the anxieties 
and annoyances of official life was present in County 
Cork as in County Dublin. Fortune again gave him a 
companion who could offer him welcome encouragement 
in the practice of his poetic art. 

When Spenser pitched his tent in the south of 
Ireland, there was there another English settler who was 

notably imbued with literary tastes in some 

i L- o- I*? 1*. -n i u Sir Walter 

way akin to his own. Sir Walter Ralegh 

was living at his house on the Blackwater in 
temporary retirement from political storms across the 
Irish Channel. He quickly made his way to Kilcolman 
Castle. Spenser was cheered in his desolation by a 
visitor whose literary enthusiasm was proof against 
every vicissitude of fortune. With Ralegh's inspiring 
voice ringing in his ear, Spenser's Faerie Queene pro 
gressed apace. Spenser recognised, too, Ralegh's own 
poetic power, and he stirred his neighbour to address 
himself also to the Muse in friendly rivalry. Of his 
meetings with Ralegh in the fastnesses of Southern 
Ireland, and of their poetic contests, Spenser wrote 
with simple beauty thus : 

A strange shepherd chanced to find me out, 
Whether allured with my pipes delight, 
Whose pleasing sound yshrilled far about, 
Or thither led by chance, I know not right ; 
Whom, when I asked from what place he came, 
And how he hight, himself he did ycleepe 
The Shepherd of the Ocean by name, 
And said he came far from the main-sea deep. 


He, sitting me beside in that same shade, 

Provoked me to play some pleasant fit ; 

And when he heard the music which I made, 

He found himself full greatly pleased at it : 

Yet aemuling * my pipe, he took in hond 

My pipe, before that aemuled f of many, 

And played thereon ; (for well that skill he cond) ; 

Himself as skilful in that art as any. 

He pip'd, I sung ; and, when he sung, I piped ; 

By change of turns, each making other merry ; 

Neither envying other, nor envied, 

So piped we until we both were weary. ' 

It was at Ralegh's persuasion that Spenser, having 
completed three books of his Faerie Queene, took the 
resolve to visit London once more. At 
revisited Ralegh's persuasion he sought to arrange for 
the publication of his ambitious venture. 
His fame as author of The Shepheards Calender still ran 
high, and a leader of the publishing fraternity, William 
Ponsonby, was eager to undertake the volume. The 
negotiation rapidly issued in the appearance of the first 
three books of Spenser's epic allegory under Ponsonby's 
auspices early in 1590. 

Ralegh, to whom the author addressed a prefatory 
letter 'expounding his whole intention in the course of 
Its dedica- tn ^ s wor V had filled the poet with hope that 
tion to the highest power in the land, the Queen 
Queen herself, ' whose grace was great and bounty 

Elizabeth. mO st rewardful,' would interest herself in so 
noble an undertaking. With the loyalty characteristic of 
the time, the poet had made his virgin sovereign a chief 
heroine of his poem. To her accordingly he dedicated 

* Rivalling. t Rivalled. 

J Colin Clouts (ome homt again*- 11. 60-79. 


the work in words of dignified brevity. The dedication 
ran : ' To the most high, mighty, and magnificent 
Empress, renowned for piety, virtue, and all gracious 
government. . . . Her most humble servant, Edmund 
Spenser, doth in all humility dedicate, present, and 
consecrate these his labours, to live with the eternity of 
her fame.' But it was not the Queen alone among 
great personages who could, if well disposed, benefit his 
material fortunes and restore him in permanence to his 
native English soil. The poet was urged by friendly 
advisers to enlist the interest of all leading men and 
women in his undertaking. In seventeen prefatory 
sonnets he saluted as a suppliant for their favour as 
many high officers or ladies of the Court. 

The reception accorded to the first published instal 
ment of the Faerie Queene gave Spenser no ground for 
regret. Among lovers of poetry the book R ecept ; on 
attained instant success. The first three O fthe 
books of the Faerie Queene dispelled all Faerie 
surviving doubt that Spenser was, in point of Q Mne > 
time, the greatest poet (after Chaucer) in the 
English language ; and there were many who judged the 
later poet to be in merit the equal if not the superior of 
the earlier. 

In the Faerie Queene Spenser broke new ground. 
It was not of the category to which Spenser's earlier 
effort The Shepheards Calender belonged. i ts advance 
Since the earlier volume appeared more on The 
than ten years had passed, and Spenser's Shepheards 
hand had grown in confidence and cunning. Calen(ier > 
His thought had matured, his intellectual interests had 
grown, till they embraced well-nigh the whole expanse 
of human endeavour. His genius, his poetic capacity, 


had now ripened At length a long-sustained effort of 
exalted aim lay well within his scope. As in the case 
of The Shepheards Calender, Spenser deprecated origin 
ality of design. With native modesty he announced on 
the threshold his discipleship to Homer and Virgil, to 
Ariosto and Tasso. It was an honest and just an 
nouncement. Many an episode and much of his 
diction came from the epic poems of Achilles and 
^Eneas, or of Orlando and Rinaldo. But all his borrow 
ings were fused with his own invention by the fire of his 
brain, and the final scheme was the original fruit of 
individual genius. Spenser's main purpose was to teach 
virtue, to instruct men in the conduct of life, to ex 
pound allegorically a system of moral philosophy. But 
with a lavish hand he shed over his ethical teaching the 
splendour of great poetry, and it is by virtue of that 
allurement that his endeavour won its triumph. 


Spenser was ill content with mere verbal recognition 
of the eminence of his poetic achievement. His 

presence in London was not only planned 
A suitor j , ,. . . j- /-. 

for office m or " er to publish the Faerie Queene, and 

to enjoy the applause of critics near at hand. 
It was also designed to win official preferment, to gain 
a more congenial means of livelihood than was open to 
him in Ireland, a home ' unmeet for man in whom was 
aught regardful.' To secure this end he spared no 
effort He cared little for his self-respect provided he 
could strengthen his chances of victory. He submitted 
to all the tedious and degrading routine which was in- 


cumbent on suitors for court office ; he patiently suffered 
rebuffs and disappointments, delays and the indecision 
of patrons. Some measure of success rewarded his 
persistency. Ralegh, who enjoyed for the time Queen 
Elizabeth's favour, worked hard in his friend's behalf. 
The Queen was not indifferent to the compliments 
Spenser had paid her in his great poem. Great ladies 
were gratified by the poetic eulogies he offered them in 
occasional verse. In the exalted ranks of society his 
reputation 'as an unapproached master of his art grew 

A general willingness manifested itself to respond 
favourably to the plaintive petitions of a poet so richly 
endowed. A pension was suggested. The The 
Queen herself, the rumour went, accepted grant of 
the suggestion with alacrity, and calling the a pension, 
attention of her Lord Treasurer, Lord Burghley, to it, 
bade him be generous. She named a sum which was 
deemed by her adviser excessive. Finally Spenser was 
allotted a State-paid income of fifty pounds a year. The 
amount was large at a time when the purchasing power 
of money was eight times what it is now, and the 
bestowal of it promised him such prestige as recog 
nition by the crown invariably confers on a poet, 
although it did not give Spenser the formal title of 

But Spenser was unsatisfied ; he resented and never 
forgave the attitude of Lord Burghley, who, like most 

practical statesmen, looked with suspicion on , 

.... , The return 

poets when they sought political posts : he to Ire]and- 

had no enthusiasm for amateurs in political 

office, nor did he approve of the appropriation of public 

money to the encouragement of literary genius. The 


net result left Spenser's position unchanged The 
pension was not large enough to justify him in abandon 
ing work in Ireland. England offered him no asylum. 
He recrossed the Irish Channel to resume his office as 
Clerk of the Council of Munster. 

His despair At home in Ireland, Spenser reviewed his 
of his fortunes in despair. With feeling he wrote 

fortunes. i n his poem called Mother Hubberds Tale : 

* Full little knowest thou, that hast not tried, 
What hell it is, in suing long to bide : 
To lose good days, that might be better spent ; 
To waste long nights in pensive discontent ; 
To speed to-day, to be put back to-morrow ; 
To feed on hope, to pine with fear and sorrow ; 
To have thy Prince's grace, yet want her Peers ; 
To have thy asking, yet wait many years ; 
To fret thy soul with crosses and with cares ; 
To eat thy heart through comfortless despairs ; 
To fawn, to crouch, to wait, to ride, to run, 
To spend, to give, to want, to be undone. 
Unhappy wight, born to disastrous end, 
That doth his life in so long tendance spend ! ' * 

On a second poem of the same date and on the same 
theme he bestowed the ironical title Colin Clouts come 
home againe (Colin Clout was a nickname 'which it 
amused him to give himself). Colin Clout is as charm 
ing and simple an essay in autobiography as fell from 
any poet's pen. He recalls the details of his recent 
experience in London with charming naivet^ and 
dwells with generous enthusiasm on the favours and 
'sundry good turns,' which he owed to his neighbour 
Sir Walter Ralegh. He sent the manuscript of 

* Spenser's Prosopopoia, or Mother Hubberds Tale, 11. 896-909. . 


Colin Clout to Ralegh, and, although it was not 
printed till 1595, it soon passed from hand to hand. 
Elsewhere in another occasional poem, The Ruines 
of Time, which mainly lamented the death of his 
first patron Leicester and of that patron's brother 
the Earl of Warwick, he avenged himself in a more 
strident note on Lord Burghley's cynical indifference 
to his need. 

All the leisure that his official duties left him he now 
devoted to poetry. He committed to verse all his 
thought. He was no longer reticent, and 
sent copies of his poems in all directions. z f!j a 
Quickly he came before the public as author 
of another volume of verse possessing high auto 
biographical attraction. This was a characteristic ven 
ture of the publisher Ponsonby, and with its actual 
preparation for the press the poet was not directly con 
cerned. Scattered poems by Spenser were circulating 
in manuscript from hand to hand. These the publisher, 
Ponsonby, brought together under the title of Com 
plaints, without distinct authority from the author. 
The book seems to have contained compositions of 
various dates; some belonged to early years, but the 
majority were very recent To the recent work belongs 
one of Spenser's most characteristic and most mature 
poetic efforts, the poem of ' Muiopotmos.' That poem 
is the airiest of fancies treated with marvellous delicacy 
and vivacity. It tells the trivial story of a butterfly 
swept by a gust of wind into a spider's web. But the 
picturesque portrayal of the butterfly's careless passage 
through the air, and of his revellings in all the delights 
of nature, breathes the purest spirit of simple and sensu 
ous poetry. 


' Over the fields, in his frank lustiness, 
And all the champain o'er, he soared light, 
And all the country wide he did possess, 
Feeding upon their pleasures bounteously, 
That none gainsaid and none did him envy.' 

It is difficult to refuse assent to the interpretation of 
the poem which detects in the butterfly's joyous career 
on 'his air-cutting wings,' and his final and fatal entangle 
ment in the grisly tyrant's den, a figurative reflection of 
the poet's own experiences. 


A change was imminent in Spenser's private life. 
Once more he contemplated marriage. He paid his 

addresses to the daughter of a neighbouring 
The poet's } dl d H fathe j ames Boyle was the 
marriage. ' J ' 

kinsman of a great magnate of the south of 

Ireland, Richard Boyle, who was to be created at a later 
period Earl of Cork. 

It was in accord with the fashion of the time, that 
Spenser, under the new sway of the winged god, should 

interrupt the poetic labours on which he had 
Amoretti a l rea( ty entered, to pen, in honour of his 

wished-for bride, a long sequence of sonnets. 
Spenser's sonnets, which he entitled Amoretti^ do not 
rank very high among his poetic compositions. Like 
those of most of his contemporaries, they reflect his 
wide reading in the similar work of French and Italian 
contemporaries to a larger extent than his own in 
dividuality. Although a personal experience impelled 
him to the enterprise, it is only with serious qualifications 
that Spenser's sequence of sonnets can be regarded as 


autobiographic confessions.* In his hands, as in the 
hands of Sidney and Daniel, the sonnet was a poetic 
instrument whereon he sought to repeat in his mother- 
tongue, with very vague reference to his personal cir 
cumstances, the notes of amorous feeling and diction 
which earlier poets of Italy and France had already made 
their own. The sonnet, which was a wholly foreign 
form of poetry, and came direct to Elizabethan England 
from the Continent of Europe, had an inherent attrac 
tion for Spenser throughout his career. His earliest 
literary efforts were two small collections of sonnets, 
renderings respectively of French sonnets by Du Bellay 
and Marot's French translation of an ode of Petrarch. 
His Amoretti prove that in his maturer years he had 
fully maintained his early affection for French and Italian 
sonnetteers. He had indeed greatly extended his ac 
quaintance among them. The influence of Petrarch 
and Du Bellay was now rivalled by the influence of 
Tasso and Desportes.t At times Spenser is content 

* Spenser makes only three distinctly autobiographical statements 
in his sonnets. Sonnet xxxiii. is addressed by name to his friend 
Lodowick Bryskett, and is an apology for the poet's delay in com 
pleting his Faerie Queene. In Sonnet Ix. Spenser states that he is 
forty-one years old, and that one year has passed since he -came 
under the influence of the winged god. Sonnet Ixxiv. apostrophises 
the ' happy letters ' which comprise the name Elizabeth, which he 
states was borne alike by his mother, his sovereign, and his wife, 
Elizabeth Boyle. 

' Ye three Elizabeths ! for ever live,, 

That three such graces did unto me give.' 

Here Spenser seems to be following a hint offered him by Tasso, 
who addressed a sonnet to three benefactresses (' Tre gran donne ') 
all named Leonora. (Tasso, Rime, Venice, 1583, vol. i. p. 39.) 

t See Elizabethan Sonnets, vol. i. pp. xcii.-xcix. (introd.), edited 
by the present writer. The following is a good example of 


with literal translation of these two foreign masters; 
very occasionally does he altogether escape from their 
toils. Where he avoids literal dependence, he com 
monly adopts foreign words and ideas too closely to 
give his individuality complete freedom. Only three or 
four times does he break loose from the foreign chains 
and reveal in his sonnet sequence the full force of his 
great genius. For the most part the Amoretti repro 
duces the hollow prettiness and cloying sweetness of 
French and Italian conceits with little of the English 
poet's distinctive charm. 

Spenser's dependence on Tasso. Nine lines of Tasso's sonnet are 
literally translated by Spenser : 

' Fair is my love, when her fair golden hairs 
With the loose wind ye waving chance to mark ; 
Fair, when the rose in her red cheeks appears, 
Or in her eyes the fire of love doth spark. . . . 
But fairest she, when so she doth display 
The gate with pearls and rubies richly dight ; 
Through which her words so wise do make their way, 
To bear the message of her gentle spright.' 

(Spenser, Amoretti, Ixxxi.) 

' Bella e la donna mia, se dal bel crine, 

L'oro al vento ondeggiare avien, che miri ; 
Bella se volger gli occhi in dolci giri 
O le rose fiorir tra la sue brine. . . . 

Ma quella, ch'apre un dolce labro, e serra 
Porta di bei rubin si dolcemente, 
E belta sovra ogn' altra altera, ed alma. 

Porta gentil de la pregion de 1'alma, 

Onde i messi d'amor escon sovente.' 

(Tasso, Rime, Venice, 1585, vol. iii. p. 17^.) 

Spenser's fidelity as a translator does not permit him to overlook 
even Tasso's pleonastic ' che miri ' (line 2), which he renders quite 
literally by 'ye chance to mark.' 


But if sincerity and originality are slenderly repre 
sented in the sonnets, neither of these qualities is want 
ing to the great ode which was published 
with them. There Spenser with an engaging , Q , . 
frankness betrayed the elation of spirit which 
came of his courtship and marriage. In this Epi- 
thalamion, with which he celebrated his wedding, his 
lyrical powers found full scope, and the ode takes rank 
with the greatest of English lyrics. The refined tone 
does not ignore any essential facts, but every touch 
subserves the purposes of purity and brings into prom 
inence the spiritual beauty of the nuptial tie. Of the 
fascination of his bride he writes in lines like these : 

' But if ye saw that which no eyes can see, 
The inward beauty of her lively spright, 
Garnished with heavenly gifts of high degree, 
Much more then would you wonder at that sight, 
And stand astonished like to those which red 
Medusa's mazeful head. 

There dwells sweet love, and constant chastity, 
Unspotted faith, and comely womanhood, 
Regard of honour, and mild modesty ; 
There virtue reigns as queen in royal throng 
And giveth laws alone, 
The which the base affections do obey, 
And yield their services unto her will ; 
Ne thought of thing uncomely ever may 
Thereto approach to tempt her mind to ill. 
Had ye once seen these her celestial treasures, 
And unrevealed pleasures, 
Then would ye wonder, and her praises sing, 
That all the woods should answer, and your echo ring.' * 

Spenser deferred marriage to so mature an age as 
* Epithalamion, 11. 185-203. 


forty-two. His great achievements in poetry were then 
completed. Before his marriage he had finished the 
The Faerie ^ ast three completed books of his Faerie 
Queene Queene ; a fragment of a seventh book sur- 
continued. v ives of uncertain date, but it probably belongs 
to the poet's pre-nuptial career. After his marriage, his 
first practical business was to revisit London and super 
intend the printing of the three last completed books of 
his great allegory. 

Five years had passed since his last sojourn in Eng 
land, and his welcome was not all that he could wish. 

In diplomatic circles he found himself an 
Political , . r T ,, , . f 

difficulties. ob J ect of sus P lclon - James vi., the king of 

Scotland, himself a poet and a reader of 
poetry, had lately detected in Duessa, the deceitful witch 
of Spenser's great poem, an ill-disguised portrait of his 
own mother, Mary Queen of Scots. Official complaint 
had been made to the English Government, and a 
request preferred for the punishment of the offending 
poet. The controversy went no further and Spenser 
was unharmed, but the older politicians complained 
privately of his indiscretion, and Burghley's cynical 
scorn seemed justified. 

The fashionable nobility, however, only recognised 
his glorious poetic gifts and their enthusiasm was un- 
The Earl diminished. Spenser followed the Court 
of Essex's with persistence. He was a visitor at the 
patronage. Queen's palace at Greenwich, where Shake 
speare had acted in the royal presence two seasons 
before. Especially promising was the reception accorded 
him by the Queen's latest favourite, the Earl of Essex, 
a sincere lover of the arts and of artists, but of too 
impetuous a temperament to exert genuine influence at 


Court in behalf of his protege. Spenser was the Earl's 
guest at Essex House in the Strand. The mansion was 
already familiar to the poet, for it had been in earlier 
years the residence of the Earl of Leicester, the poet's 
first patron, and Essex's predecessor in the regard of his 
sovereign. Spenser rejoiced in the renewed hospitality 
the familiar roof offered him. Of his presence in Essex 
House, he left a memorial of high literary interest. 
It was in honour of two noble ladies, daughters of the 
Earl of Worcester, who were married from Essex House 
in November 1596. that Spenser penned the latest of 
his poems and one that embodied the quintessence of 
his lyric gift His ' Prothalamioti or a spousal verse, in 
honour of the double marriage of two honourable and 
virtuous ladies,' was hardly a whit inferior to his recent 
Epithalamion. Its far-famed refrain : 

' Sweet Thames ! run softly, till I end my song,' 

sounds indeed a sweeter note than the refrain of answer 
ing woods and ringing echoes in the earlier ode. It 
leaves an ineffaceable impression of musical grace and 
simplicity. It was Spenser's fit farewell to his Muse. 

It was not poetry that occupied Spenser's main atten 
tion during this visit to London. Again his chief 
concern was the search for more lucrative His prose 
employment than Ireland was offering him, tract on 
and in this quest he met with smaller en- Ireland, 
couragement than before. With a view to proving his 
political sagacity and his fitness for political work, he 
now indeed abandoned with his Prothalamion poetry 
altogether. Much of his time in London he devoted 
to describing and criticising the existing condition of 
the country of Ireland where his life was unwillingly 


passed. He wrote dialogue-wise a prose treatise which 
he called ' A view of the present state of Ireland.' It 
was first circulated in manuscript, and was not published 
in Spenser's lifetime. Despite many picturesque pas 
sages, and an attractive flow of colloquy, it is not the 
work that one would expect from a great poet at the 
zenith of his powers. For the most part Spenser's 
'View' is a political pamphlet, showing a narrow poli 
tical temper and lack of magnanimity. The argument 
is a mere echo of the hopeless and helpless prejudices 
which infected the English governing class. Despair 
of Ireland's political and social future is the dominant 
note. 'Marry, see there have been divers good plots 
devised and wise counsels cast already about reforma 
tion of that realm ; but they say it is the fatal destiny 
of that land, that no purposes, whatsoever are meant 
for her good, will prosper or take good effect, which 
whether it proceed from the very Genius of the soil, 
or influence of the stars, or that Almighty God hath 
not yet appointed the time of her reformation, or that 
he reserveth her in this unquiet state still for some 
secret scourge, which shall by her come unto England, 
it is hard to be known, but yet much to be feared.' 

The poet failed to recognise any justice in the claims 
of Irish nationality ; English law was to' be forced on 
Hispre- Irishmen; Irish nationality was to be sup- 
judice pressed (if need be) at the point of the 

against sword. Spenser's avowed want of charity 
the Irish. long caused in the native population ab 
horrence of his name. But while condemning Irish 
character and customs, Spenser was enlightened enough 
to perceive defects in English methods of governing 
Ireland. He deplored the ignorance and degradation 


of the Protestant clergy there, and the unreadiness of 
the new settlers to take advantage, by right scientific 
methods of cultivation, of the natural wealth of the 
soil. Despite his invincible prejudices, Spenser ac 
knowledged, too, some good qualities in the native 
Irish. They were skilled and alert horsemen. ' I 
have heard some great warriors say, that, in all the 
services which they had seen abroad in foreign 
countries, they never saw a more comely horseman 
than the Irish man, nor that cometh on more bravely 
in his charge : neither is his manner of mounting 
unseemly, though he wants stirrups, but more ready 
then with stirrups, for in his getting up his horse is 
still going, whereby he gaineth way.' 

Spenser allows, too, a qualified virtue in the native 
poetry. Of Irish compositions Spenser asserts that 
'they savoured of sweet wit and good invention, but 
skilled not of the goodly ornaments of Poetry : yet 
were they sprinkled with some pretty flowers of their 
own natural device, which gave good grace and come 
liness unto them.' Spenser also took an antiquarian 
interest in the remains of Irish art and civilisation, 
and contemplated a work on Irish antiquities, of which 
no trace has been found. 

Only the natural beauty of the country excited in 
him any genuine enthusiasm. 'And sure it is yet a 
most beautiful and sweet country as any is The natu- 
under heaven, seamed throughout with many ral beauty 
goodly rivers, replenished with all sorts of of Ireland, 
fish; most abundantly sprinkled with many sweet 
islands and goodly lakes like little inland seas that 
will carry even ships upon their waters ; adorned with 
goodly woods fit for building of houses and ships, so 


commodiously, as that if some princes in the world 
had them, they would soon hope to be lords of all 
the seas, and ere long of all the world ; also full of 
good ports and havens opening upon England and 
Scotland, as inviting us to come to them, to see what 
excellent commodities that country can afford ; besides 
the soil itself most fertile, fit to yield all kinds of fruit 
that shall be committed thereunto. And lastly, the 
heavens most mild and temperate.' 

His ' View of the present state of Ireland ' is Spenser's 
only work in prose, and is his [final contribution to 


Early in 1597 Spenser returned to Ireland for the 
last time, and at the moment empty-handed. He was 

more than usually depressed in spirit. His 
Sheriff of .. _ u j u c vi 

Cork iwS v Court, he wrote, had been fruitless. 

Sullen care overwhelmed him. Idle hopes 
flew away like empty shadows. None the less a change 
was wrought next year in his position in Ireland. He 
received the appointment of Sheriff of Cork in the 
autumn of 1598. The preferment was of no enviable 
kind. It was an anxious and a thankless office to 
which Spenser was called. The difficulties of Irish 
government were at the moment reaching a crisis 
which was likely to involve Sheriffs of the South in 
personal peril. A great effort was in preparation on 
the part of the native Irish to throw off the tyrannous 
yoke of England, and a stout nerve and resolute action 
were required in all officers of state if the attack were 
to be successfully repulsed. 


The first sign of the storm came in August 1598 a 
week before Spenser's formal instalment as Sheriff. In 
that month the great leader of the native 
Irish, the Earl of Tyrone, gathered an army 
together and met English troops at the 
Yellow Ford, on the Blackwater River, in County 
Tyrone, inflicting on them a complete defeat. That 
is the only occasion in English history on which Irish 
men, meeting Englishmen in open battle, have proved 
themselves the conquerors. The old spirit of discon 
tent, thus stimulated, rapidly spread to Spenser's neigh 
bourhood. Tyrone sent some of his Irish soldiers 
into Munster, the whole province was roused, and 
County Cork was at their mercy. Panic seized the 
little English garrisons scattered over the County. 
Spenser was taken unawares ; the castle of Kilcolman 
was burnt over his head, and he, his wife, and four 
children fled with great difficulty to Cork. An in 
accurate report spread at the time in London that 
one of his children perished in the flames. Spenser's 
position resembled that of many an English civilian 
at the outbreak in India of the Indian Mutiny, but he 
did not display the heroism or firm courage of those */ 
who were to follow him as guardians of the outposts /S 
of the British Empire. At Cork all that Spenser did 
was to send a brief note of the situation to the Queen, 
entreating her to show those caitiffs the terror of her 
wrath, and send over a force of ten thousand men, 
with sufficient cavalry, to extirpate them. 

In December the President of Munster, Sir Thomas 
Norreys, an old friend of the poet, sent him over to 
London to deliver despatches to the Government. It 
was his last journey. His health was fatally ruined 


by the shock of the rebellion, and he reached London 
only to die. He found shelter in an inn or lodging 
His last m King Street, Westminster, and there he 
mission to died on Saturday, i6th January, 1599. He 
London. wa s in the prime of life hardly more than 
forty-seven years old but his choice spirit could not 
withstand the bufferings of so desperate a crisis. 

Rumour ran that Spenser died in Westminster, 'for 
lack of bread,' in a state of complete destitution. It is 
said that the Earl of Essex, his host in 
London of three years back, learned of his 
distressful condition too late, and that, just before the 
poet breathed his last, the Earl sent him twenty pieces 
of silver, which Spenser refused with the grim remark 
that he had no time to spend them. The story is 
probably exaggerated. Spenser came to London as 
a Queen's messenger; he was in the enjoyment of a 
pension, and though his life was a long struggle with 
poverty, mainly through unbusinesslike habits, it is 
unlikely that he was without necessaries on his death 
bed. It is more probable that he died of nervous 
prostration than of starvation.* 

At any rate Spenser had friends in London, and 
they, when he was dead, accorded him a fitting burial. 

* Nevertheless the belief that he had been harshly used long 
survived. John Weever, in an epigram published in the year of 
Spenser's death, declared : 

' Spenser is ruined, of our latest time 

The fairest ruin, Faeries foulest want.' 

The author of the Return from Parnassus asserts that in his last 
hours ' maintenance ' was denied him by an ungrateful country. 
A later disciple, Phineas Fletcher, in his Purple Island, wrote 
of Spenser : 

' Poorly, poor man, he lived ; poorly, poor man, he died.' 


Westminster Abbey, the National Church, where the 
sovereigns of the country were wont to find their last 

earthly home, became Spenser's final resting- . 

m. , r His burial, 

place. I he choice of such a sepulchre 

was notable testimony to his poetical repute. The 
Abbey had not yet acquired its 'Poets' Corner' in its 
southern transept. It was Spenser's interment which 
practically inaugurated that noble chamber of death. 
Only one great man of letters had been buried there 
already. Chaucer had been laid in the southern 
transept two hundred years before, not apparently 
in his capacity of poet, but as officer of the King's 
royal household, all members of which had some vague 
title to burial near their royal masters. It was not 
until the middle of the sixteenth century, when 
Chaucer's title to be reckoned the father of great 
English poetry was first acknowledged, that an admirer 
sought and obtained permission to raise a monument 
to his memory near his grave. The episode stirred 
the imagination of the Elizabethans, and when death 
claimed Spenser, who called Chaucer master, and who 
was reckoned the true successor to Chaucer's throne 
of English poetry, a sentiment spread abroad that he 
who was so nearly akin to Chaucer by force of poetic 
genius ought of right to sleep near his tomb. Accord 
ingly in fitting pomp Spenser's remains were interred 
beneath the shadow of the elder poet's monument* 

* The propriety of the honour thus accorded to Spenser is 
crudely but emphatically acknowledged by the author of the 
Pilgrimage to Parnassus, 1600, where the critic of contemporary 
literature, Ingenioso, after lamenting the sad circumstances of 
Spenser's death, adds : 

' But softly may our honour's \var. led. Homer's] ashes rest, 
That lie by merry Chaucer's noble chest.' 


The Earl of Essex, the favourite of the Queen, who 
honoured Spenser with unqualified enthusiasm, and, 
despite his waywardness in politics, never erred in his 
devotion to 'the Muses, defrayed the expenses of the 
ceremony. Those who attended the obsequies were 
well chosen. In the procession of mourners walked, 
we are told, the poets of the day, and when the coffin 
was lowered these loving admirers of their great col 
league's work threw into his tomb ' poems and mournful 
elegies with the pens that wrote them.' Little imagina 
tion is needed to conjure up among those who paid 
homage to Spenser's spirit the glorious figure of Shake 
speare, by whom alone of contemporaries Spenser was 

It was welcome to the Queen herself that Spenser, 
the greatest of her poetic panegyrists, should receive 
The tomb ^ ue honour in death. There is reason to 
in West- believe that she claimed the duty of erecting 
minster a monument above his grave. But the 
pecuniary misfortunes which had dogged 
Spenser in life seemed to hover about him after death. 
The royal intention of honouring his memory was 
defeated by the dishonesty of a royal servant. The 
money which was allotted to the purpose by the 
Queen was nefariously misapplied. Ultimately, twenty- 
one years after Spenser's death, a monument was erected 
at the cost of a noble patroness of poets, Ann Clifford, 
Countess of Dorset. The inscription ran : ' Here lyes 
expecting the second comminge of our Saviour Christ 
Jesus, the body of Edmond Spencer, the Prince of 
Poets in his tyme, whose divine spirit needs noe other 
witnesse than the workes which he left behind him.' 
Spenser was rightfully named prince of the realm of 


which Shakespeare was king. Although Shakespeare 
was not buried at Westminster, Spenser's tomb was 
soon encircled by the graves of other literary heroes 
of his epoch, and in course of time a memorial statue 
of Shakespeare overlooked it. Three of Spenser's 
contemporaries, Francis Beaumont, Michael Drayton, 
and Ben Jonson, were within a few years interred near 
him in the Abbey. 

Time dealt unkindly with the fabric of Spenser's 
monument, and in the eighteenth century it needed 
renovating 'in durable marble.' But it was Spenser's 
funeral rites that permanently ensured for literary 
eminence the loftiest dignity of sepulture that the Eng 
lish nation has to bestow. Great literature was thence 
forth held to rank with the greatest achievements 
wrought in the national service. During the last two 
centuries few English poets of supreme merit have 
been denied in death admission to the national sanc 
tuary in the neighbourhood of Spenser's tomb. Several 
of those who had been buried elsewhere have been, 
like Shakespeare, commemorated in Westminster Abbey 
by sculptured monuments. 

In practical affairs Spenser's life was a failure. It 
ended in a somewhat sordid tragedy, which added 
nothing to his political reputation. His , 

literary work stands on a very different e ^ atness 
footing. Its steady progress in varied ex 
cellences was a ceaseless triumph for art. It won 
him immortal fame. Spenser's chief work, the Faerie 


Queene, was the greatest poem that had been written 
in England since Chaucer died, and remains, when 
it is brought into comparison with all that English 
poets have written since, one of the brightest jewels 
in the crown of English poetry. It is worthy of closest 
study. Minute inquiry into its form and spirit is essen 
tial to every estimate of Spenser's eminence. 

In all senses the work is great. The scale on which 
Spenser planned his epic allegory has indeed no 
The ampli- parallel in ancient or modern literature. All 
tude of that has reached us is but a quarter of the 
scale. contemplated whole. Yet the Faerie Queene 

is, in its extant shape, as long as Homer's Iliad and 
Odyssey combined with Virgil's ^Eneid. Even epics 
of more recent date, whose example Spenser confesses 
to have emulated, fell far behind his work in its 
liberality of scale. In the unfinished form that it has 
come down to us, Spenser's epic is more than twice 
as long as Dante's La Divina Commedia^ or Tasso's 
Gerusalemme Liberata. Ariosto's Orlando Furioso, with 
which Spenser was thoroughly familiar, was brought to 
completion in somewhat fewer lines. Nor did Spenser's 
great successors compete with him in length. Milton's 
Paradise Lost, the greatest of all English epics, fills, 
when joined to its sequel Paradise Regained^ less than 
a third of Spenser's space. Had the Faerie Queene 
reached a twenty-fourth book, as the poet at the outset 
thought possible, not all the great epics penned in 
ancient or modern Europe would, when piled one upon 
the other, have reached the gigantic dimensions of the 
Elizabethan poem. 

The serious temper and erudition of which the enter 
prise was the fruit powerfully impress the inquirer at 


the outset. It is doubtful if Milton and Gray, who 
are usually reckoned the most learned of English poets, 
excelled Spenser in the range of their read 
ing, or in the extent to which their poetry Assunila- 

tive power, 
assimilated the fruits of their study. Homer 

and Theocritus, Virgil and Cicero, Petrarch and Du 
Bellay, mediseval writers of chivalric romance, Tasso 
and Ariosto, supply ideas, episodes, and phrases to the 
Faerie Queene. Early in life Spenser came under the 
spell of Tasso, the monarch of contemporary Italian 
poetry, and gathered much suggestion from his ample 
store. But the Faerie Queene owes most to the epic of 
Orlando Furioso by Tasso's predecessor, Ariosto. The 
chivalric adventures which Spenser's heroes undergo 
are often directly imitated from the Italian of 'that 
most famous Tuscan pen.' Many an incident, together 
with the moralising which its details suggest, follows 
Ariosto in phraseology too closely to admit any doubt 
of its source. Spenser is never a plagiarist. He in 
vests his borrowings with his own individuality. But 
very numerous are the passages which owed their birth 
to Ariosto's preceding invention. The Italian poet is 
rich in imagery. He drank deep of the Pierian spring. 
He is indeed superior to Spenser in the conciseness 
and directness of his narrative power. But Ariosto has 
little of the warmth of human sympathy or moral 
elevation which dignifies Spenser's effort. Spenser's 
tone is far more serious than that of the Italian master, 
whose main aim was the telling of an exciting tale. 
Ariosto is far inferior to Spenser in the sustained energy 
alike of his moral and of his poetic impulse. 

The Faerie Queene was not designed, like Ariosto's 
achievement, as a mere piece of art It was before 


all else a moral treatise. Although it was fashioned 

on the epic lines with which constant reading of the 

work of Homer and Virgil among the 

ancients, and more especially of Ariosto 
morai aim. , , , , , 

and Tasso among the moderns, had made 

Spenser familiar, Spenser was not content merely to 
tell a story. According to the poet's own account, he 
sought 'to represent all the moral virtues, Holiness, 
Temperance, Chastity, and the like, assigning to every 
virtue a knight to be the pattern and defender of the 
same ; in whose actions and feats of arms and chivalry 
the operations of that virtue, whereof he is the pro 
tector, are to be expressed, and the vices and unruly 
appetites that oppose themselves against the same to 
be beaten down and overcome.' Twelve books, one 
for each moral virtue, were needed for such an exposi 
tion of ethical philosophy. But this was only the first 
step in the poet's contemplated journey. The author 
looked forward to supplementing this ethical effort by 
an exposition of political philosophy, in another twelve 
books which would expound the twelve political virtues 
that were essential to a perfect ruler of men. Of the 
twenty-four projected books there is a tradition that 
Spenser wrote twelve, nearly half of which were de 
stroyed in manuscript by the rebels in Ireland. It is 
certain that only the first six books, with a small 
portion of the seventh, have reached us. 

Spenser's ethical views are not systematically de 
veloped, but, considered in their main aspect, they owe 

an immense debt to the Greek philosopher 
The debt ,-,. . , . . . , . , . , . , 
to Plato "lato. Plato s ethical teaching glows in page 

after page of the Faerie Queene and of Spen 
ser's shorter poems. The English poet loyally accepts 


Plato's doctrines that true beauty is only of the mind, 
that reason is the sole arbiter of man's destiny, that war 
must be waged on the passions and the bodily senses, 
that peace and happiness are the fruit of the intellect 
when it is enfranchised of corporeal infirmity. 'All 
happy peace and goodly government ' are only ' settled 
in sure establishment' 

' In a body which doth freely yield 
His parts to reason's rule obedient, 
And letteth her that ought the sceptre wield.' * 

But it is not merely in his general ethical tone that 
Spenser acknowledges his discipleship to Plato. Many de 
tails of the Faerie Queene embody Platonic terminology 
and Platonic conceptions. In Book in. he borrows 
from Plato the conception of ' the garden of Adonis,' 
Nature's nursery and under that image he presents 
Plato's theory of the infinite mutability of matter, despite 
its indestructibility. Infinite shapes of creatures are 
bred, Spenser points out, ' in that same garden ' where 
with the world is replenished, 

' Yet is the stock not lessened, nor spent, 
But still remains in everlasting store, 
As it at first created was of yore. ' t 

In Book ii. Spenser describes the threefold elements 
which go to the making of man's soul : right reason 
(Medina), the passion of wrath (Elissa), and the passion 
of sensual desire (Perissa). Although the poet here 
recalls the doctrine of Plato's great disciple, Aristotle, 
to the effect that virtue is the golden mean between 

* Bk. ii., canto xi., stanza ii. 

t Bk. in., canto vi., stanza xxxvi. 


excess and defect, he actually accepts the older Platonic 
principle that virtue is the mean between two equally 
active and powerful evil passions. Occasionally Spenser 
ranges himself with later Greek philosophers, who de 
veloped and exaggerated Plato's doctrine of the eternal 
spirit's supremacy over mutable matter. But Plato is 
always his foremost teacher, not only in the Faerie 
Queene but in his sonnets, in his rapturous hymns of 
beauty, and in much else of his occasional poetry. 

In fulfilment of his ethical purpose the poet imagined 
twelve knights, each the champion of one of ' the private 
Spenser's moral virtues' of Greek philosophy, who 
Knights of should undertake perilous combats with vice 
the Virtues. j n various shapes. The first and second 
champions, respectively, the knight of the Red Cross, 
or of Holiness, and Sir Guyon, the knight of Temper 
ance, embody with singular precision Platonic doctrine. 
The third champion, a more original conception, was a 
woman, Britomart, the lady-knight of Chastity ; the 
fourth was Cambell, who, joined with Triamond, illus 
trates the worth pf Friendship ; the fifth was Artegal, 
the knight of Justice ; the sixth, Sir Calidore, the knight 
of Courtesy. Spenser intended that his seventh knight 
should be champion of Constancy, but of that story only 
a fragment survives. Sir Calidore is the last completed 
hero in the poet's gallery. 

The allegorised adventures in which Spenser's knights 
engage are cast for the most part in the true epic mould. 
Affinities Episode after episode reads like chapters of 
with chivalric romance of adventure. Rescues of 

chivalric innocent ladies by the knights from the per- 

mance. secutions of giant villains constantly recur. 
Fiercely - fought encounters with monsters of hateful 


mien abound. Spenser indeed employs this machinery 
of chivalric conflict with a frequency that leaves the 
impression of monotony. The charge of tediousness 
which has often been brought against the Faerie 
Queene is not easy to repel when it is levelled against 
Spenser's descriptions of his valiant heroes' physical 

But there is much else in the poem to occupy the 
reader's mind. Spenser's design would have failed to 
satisfy the primary laws of epic had he xhe Queen 
allowed it to hinge alone on isolated adven- and Prince 
tures of virtuous knights, of knights who Arthur, 
pursued their career independently of one another. 
From the epic point of view there was urgent need of 
welding together the separate episodes. Great as is the 
place they fill in the story, the chivalric types of the moral 
virtues are, consequently, not its only protagonists. 
With a view to investing the whole theme with homo 
geneity and unity the poet introduced two supreme 
beings, a heroine and a hero, to whom the other char 
acters are always subsidiary. Each knight is the subject 
of a female monarch, the Faerie Queene, in whose person 

* Macaulay's denunciation of the monotony of the poem is well 
known. In his essay on Bunyan he writes : ' Of the persons who 
read the first canto, not one in ten reaches the end of the first 
book, and not one in a hundred perseveres to the end of the 
poem. Very few and very weary are those who are in at the end, 
at the death of the Blatant Beast.' This criticism only seems just 
with qualifications, and it is impaired by the inaccuracy of its final 
words. The Blatant Beast, which typifies the spirit of malice, does 
not die in the sixth and last completed book in which it plays its 
stirring part. The knight of Courtesy, Sir Calidore, makes captive 
of the monster, but it ultimately escapes its chains, and in the con 
cluding stanzas is described as ranging (through the world again 
without restraint. 


flourish all human excellences. She is the worthy object 
of every manner of chivalric adoration, and in her name 
all chivalric deeds are wrought. In this royal quintes 
sence of virtue Spenser, with courtier-like complacency, 
idealised his own sovereign, Queen Elizabeth. But the 
queen of the poem is . not quite isolated in her pre 
eminence. The knights owe allegiance to another great 
prince to Prince Arthur, in whom the twelve private 
moral virtues are all combined. Prince Arthur presents 
Aristotle's philosophical idea of magnanimity, the human 
realisation of moral perfectibility. This perfect type of 
mankind was, according to Spenser's design, to inter 
vene actively in the development of the plot. He was 
to meet with each of the twelve knights when they were 
hard pressed by their vicious foes, and by his superior 
powers to rescue each in turn from destruction. Nor 
were these labours to exhaust the prince's function in 
the machinery of the poem. He was not merely to act 
as the providence of the knights. He was allotted a 
romance of his own. He was in quest of a fated bride, 
and she was no other than the Faerie Queene. 

The ground-plan of the great poem proved somewhat 
unwieldy. The singleness of scheme at which Spenser 
Want of aimed in subordinating his virtuous knights 
homo- to two higher powers, the Faerie Queene and 

geneity. Prince Arthur, was hardly attained. The 
links which were invented to bind the books together 
proved hardly strong enough to bear the strain. The 
poet's ' endeavours after variety ' conquer his efforts at 
unity. Each of the extant books might, despite all the 
author's efforts, be easily mistaken for an independent 
poem. The whole work may fairly be described as a 
series of epic poems very loosely bound one to another. 


It is scarcely an organic whole. The amplitude of scale 
on which the work was planned, the munificence of 
detail which burdens each component part, destroys in 
the reader the sense of epic unity. 

It was hardly possible to obey strictly all the principles 
of epic art while serving an allegorical purpose, and 
from that allegorical purpose Spenser never -j^e 
consciously departs. He announced in his allegorical 
opening invocation to Clio his intention to intention, 
'moralise' his song, and he frequently reminds his 
reader of his resolve. His heroes and heroines are not, 
as in the writings of Spenser's epic tutors, mere creatures 
of flesh and blood, in whose material or spiritual fortune 
the reader's interest is to be excited. In the poet's 
mind they are always moving abstractions which illus 
trate the moral laws that sway human affairs. Truth, 
Falsehood, Hypocrisy, Mammon, Pride, Wantonness, 
are the actors and actresses on Spenser's stage. The 
scenery is not inanimate nature, nor dwellings of brick 
and stone. The curtain rises now on the Bower of 
Bliss ; now on the Cave of Despair ; now on the House 
of Temperance. The poet seeks to present a gigantic 
panorama of the moral dangers and difficulties that beset 
human existence. 

To manipulate a long-drawn allegory so as to concen 
trate the reader's attention on its significance, and to 
keep his interest at all seasons thoroughly Spenser 
alive is a difficult task. The restraints which and 
are imposed by the sustained and prolonged Bunyan 
pursuit of analogies between the moral and compared, 
material worlds are especially oppressive to the spirit of 
a poet who is gifted with powers of imagination of 
infinite activity. In his capacity of worker in allegory 


Spenser falls as far short of perfection as in his capacity 
of worker in epic. Only one Englishman contrived a 
wholly successful allegory. Spenser was not he. John 
Bunyan, in the Pilgrim 's Progress, alone among English 
men possessed just that definite measure of imagination 
which enabled him to convert with absolute sureness 
personifications of virtues and vices into speaking like 
nesses of men and women and places. Bunyan's great 
exercise in the allegorical art is rarely disfigured by in 
consistencies or incoherences. His scenes and persons 
Christian and Faithful, The House Beautiful and 
Vanity Fair while they are perfectly true to analogy, 
are endowed with intelligible and life-like features. The 
moral significance is never doubtful, while the whole 
picture leaves the impression of a masterpiece of literary 

Spenser's force of imagination was far wider than 
Bunyan's. His culture and his power over language 
were infinitely greater. But Spenser failed where Bun 
yan succeeded through the defect of his qualities, through 
excess of capacity, through the diversity of his interests, 
through the discursiveness of his imagination. He had 
little of Bunyan's sipgleness of purpose, simplicity of 
thought and faith, or faculty of self-suppression. His 
poetic and intellectual ebullience could not confine itself 
to the comparatively narrow and direct path, pursuit of 
which was essential to perfection in allegory and won for 
Bunyan his unique triumph. 

Spenser's interests in current life and his aesthetic 

temperament were, in fact, too alert to allow 
Influence , . ,. , . _ 

of his age. m con fi ne " 1S efforts to the search 

after moral analogies. Strong as was his 
moral sense, he was also thrall to his passion for beauty. 


Few manifestations of beauty either in nature or in art, 
which fell within his cognisance, could he pass by in 
silence. He had drunk deep, too, of the ideals peculiar 
to his own epoch. He was a close observer of the 
leading events and personages of Elizabethan history, 
and in defiance of the laws of allegory he wove into the 
web of his poetry many personal impressions of con 
temporary personages and movements, which had no 
just home in a moral or philosophical design of pro 
fessedly universal application. Duessa, the hateful 
witch of Falsehood, who endeavours to mislead the Red 
Cross Knight of Holiness (Bk. i.), and seeks another 
victim in another knight, Sir Scudamore (Bk. iv.), is no 
universal pattern of vice ; she is Spenser's interpretation 
of the character of Mary Queen of Scots. Sir Artegal, 
the Knight of Justice, is obviously a portrait of Arthur, 
Lord Grey of Wilton, Lord Deputy of Ireland, whom 
Spenser served as secretary. Elsewhere there are un 
disguised references to the poet's painful personal relation 
with Lord Treasurer Burghley : 

' The rugged forehead, that with grave foresight, 
Welds kingdom's causes and affair of state.' * 

Spenser laments that he had incurred this 'mighty 
peer's displeasure ' by applying himself too exclusively 
to tales of love (Bk. vi., canto xii., stanza xli.). Queen 
Elizabeth herself constantly appears on the scene, and 
no halo of allegory is suffered to encircle her. Spenser 
addresses her in the key of adulation which is a conven 
tional note of the panegyric of princes, but is altogether 
out of harmony with a broad philosophic tone. The 

* Bk. iv., introd., stanza i. 


Queen is apostrophised as the main source of the 
poet's inspiration : 

' And thou, O fairest Princess under sky ! 
In this fair mirror mayest behold thy face, 
And thine own realms in land of Fairy, 
And in this antique image thy great ancestry. ' * 

In another passage of the second book Prince Arthur 
and the Knight of Temperance, Sir Guyon, peruse 
together two old books called respectively The Briton 
Moniments and The Antiquity of Fairy from which the 
poet pretends to draw a chronicle of the old British 
kings. He justifies the digression by a rapturous 
panegyric of ' my own sovereign queen, thy realm 
and race,' who is descended 

' From mighty kings and conquerors in war, 
Thy fathers and great grandfathers of old, 
Whose noble deeds above the Northern Star 
Immortal fame for ever t hath enrolled.' t 

Nowhere does the fervid loyalty of the Elizabethan find 
more literal utterance than in Spenser's poem. 

However zealous a worshipper at the shrine of ' divine 
philosophy,' Spenser was deeply moved by the peculiar 
aspirations which fired the age, and the prejudices which 
distorted its judgment. His resolve to preach morality 
that should be of universal application was not proof 
against such influences. The old blind woman in the 
first book, counting her beads and mumbling her nine 
hundred 'pater nosters' and nine hundred 'ave marias,' 
is a caricature of papistry. It is the fruit of the con- 

* Bk. n., introd., stanza iv. 
t Bk. II., canto x., stanza iv. 


temporary Protestant zeal which infected Spenser and 
his circle of friends. The current passion for exploring 
the New World moves the poet to note how every day 

' Through hardy enterprise 
Many great Regions are discovered, 
Which to late age were never mentioned. 
Who ever heard of th' Indian Peru ? 
Or who in venturous vessel measured 
The Amazon huge river, now found true ? 
Or fruitfullest Virginia who did ever view ? ' * 

Identifying himself with a popular sentiment of the 
day, the poet lays stress on the enlightened argument 
that no limits can be set to the area over which man's 
energy and enterprise may yet gain sway : 

' Yet all these were, when no man did them know, 
Yet have from wisest ages hidden been ; 
And later times things more unknown shall show. 
Why then should witless man so much misween, 
That nothing is but that which he hath seen ? ' f 

Such digressions and interpolations add greatly to the 
poem's charm and variety, but they interrupt the flow of 
the allegorical narrative and frankly ignore the allegor 
ical design. 

But it is not as a chivalric story nor as an allegory, 
it is not as an epic narrative nor as an ethical tractate, 
nor indeed is it as an exposition of Eliza 
bethan ideals and sentiments, that Spenser's Styj e e p0 
poem is to be finally judged. It is by its 
poetic style and spirit that it must be appraised. It is 
the fertility of the poet's imagination, the luxuriance of 

* Bk. II., introd., stanza ii. 
t Bk. II., introd., stanza iii. 


his pictorial imagery, his exceptional command of the 
music of words, which give the Faerie Queene its highest 
title to honour. Despite all his ethical professions and 
his patriotic zeal, it was to the muse of poetry alone 
that Spenser swore unswerving fealty. The spirit of his 
work may best be gauged by the opening stanza of his 
sixth and last completed book : 

' The ways through which my weary steps I guide 
In this delightful land of Fairy, 
Are so exceeding spacious and wide, 
And sprinkled with such sweet variety 
Of all that pleasant is to ear or eye, 
That I, nigh ravished with rare thought's delight, 
My tedious travel do forget thereby ; 
And, when I gin to feel decay of might, 
It strength to me supplies and cheers my dulled sprite. 

Such secret comfort and such heavenly pleasures, 

Ye sacred imps, that on Parnassus dwell, 

And there the keeping have of learning's treasures 

Which do all earthly riches far excel, 

Into the minds of mortal men do well, 

And goodly fury into them infuse ; 

Guide ye my footing, and conduct me well, 

In these strange ways, where never foot did use, 

Ne none can find but who was taught them by the Muse.' 

His quarry is ' all that pleasant is to ear or eye.' He 
dwells in ' that delightful land ' where the ' sacred imps ' 
of Parnassus infuse 'goodly fury' into the minds of 
mortal men. His conception of happiness is to be ' nigh 
ravished with rare thought's delight.' It is not study of 
religion or philosophy or politics that can cheer and 
strengthen his ' dulled sprite.' It is in the ' exceeding 
spacious and wide' realms of beauty, which are only 


accessible to the poet's imagination, that he finds 
'heavenly pleasures.' Spenser abandoned himself reck 
lessly to the pure spirit of poetry. Despite the diffuse- 
ness of utterance and lack of artistic restraint which 
were inevitable in so fervid a votary of the Muses, 
Spenser, in his Faerie Queene, gave being to as noble a 
gallery of sublime conceptions, as imposing a procession 
of poetic images, as ever came from the brain of man. 

The form of Spenser's verse was admirably adapted 
to its purpose. It was his own invention, and is in itself 
striking testimony to the originality of his The 
genius. The Spenserian stanza was ingeni- Spenserian 
ously formed by adding an Alexandrine, a stanza, 
line in twelve syllables, to the eight ten-syllabled lines 
of the stanza which had been employed by Chaucer in 
his 'Monk's Tale,' a stanza long popular in France 
under the name of 'rhyme royal,' and in Italy under 
that of ' ottava rima.' Undoubtedly there is in Spenser's 
metrical device a tendency to monotony and tedious- 
ness. Languor would seem to be inevitable. Dr. 
Johnson complained that the stanza was ' tiresome ' by 
its uniformity and length. But Spenser's rare poetic 
instinct enabled him to hold such defect in check by 
variety in the pauses. In his hands the stanza is for 
the most part an instrument of sustained spirit, even 
though the closing Alexandrine imposes a gentle and 

leisurely pace on the progress of the verse. 

,. , . .,, , , The flow of 

One stanza glides into the next with graceful, the verge 

natural flow, and at times with rapidity. 
The movement has been compared, not perhaps quite 
appositely, to that of the magic gondola which Spenser 
describes in his account of the Lady of the Idle Lake ; 
the vessel slides 


' More swift than swallow shears the liquid sky ; 
It cut away upon the yielding wave, 
Ne cared she her course for to apply ; 
For it was taught the way which she would have, 
And both from rocks and flats itself could wisely save.' * 

Spenser does not altogether avoid 'rocks and flats. 
Horace Walpole called attention to a certain want of 
judgment in devising a nine-line stanza in a language so 
barren of rhymes as the English tongue, with only three 
different rhymes; of these one is twice repeated, the 
second three times, and the third four times. This 
rhyming difficulty was not capable of complete mastery, 
and Spenser's rhyming failures are not inconspicuous. 
There are in every canto some stanzas in which an 
awkward strain is put, by the exigencies of rhyme, on 
the laws of syntax, prosody, and even good sense. But 
the great passages of the poem are singularly free from 
irregularities of metre, and fascinate us by the dexterity 
of the rhymes. In view of the massive proportions of 
the work, Spenser's metrical success moves almost 
boundless admiration. In the Spenserian stanza, as 
Spenser handled it, are, if anywhere, 'the elegancy, 
facility, and golden cadence of poetry.' t 

* Bk. II., canto vi., stanza v. 

t Every canto offers examples of carelessness. Turning to Bk. 
IV., canto ii. , we find Spenser in a single stanza (xxxiii. ) rhyming 
' waste ' with ' defaced ' (which is spelt ' defaste ' in order to cover 
up the irregularity) ; ' writs ' for purposes of rhyme are used for 
' writings,' and the closing Alexandrine sinks to such awkward 
tautology as this : 

' Sith works of heavenly wits 
Are quite devoured, and brought to naught by little bits' 

(Stanza xxxiii.) 
In stanza lii. the Alexandrine again offends : 


Spenser in the Faerie Queene, as in his earliest poetic 
effort, The Shepheards Calender, deliberately used a 
vocabularly that was archaic for its own day. 

Many contemporary critics were doubtful of 

, . J . , vocabulary. 

his wisdom. The poet Daniel, who fully 

recognised Spenser's genius, deemed his meaning need 
lessly obscured by 'aged accents and untimely (i.e. 
obsolete) words.' But a tendency to preciosity, a pre 
dilection for the unfamiliar, a passion for what was out 
of date, were characteristic of Spenser's faculty. Archaic 
language lent, in his view, the beauty of mellowness to 
his work and removed it from the rawness or ' weari 
some turmoil ' of current speech. 

It was his filial devotion to Chaucer which mainly 
kept alive Spenser's love for archaisms of 
speech. Chaucer's verse had from earliest to 

days lingered in his memory, and he occa 

sionally quotes lines of his predecessor word for word.* 

' That both their lives may likewise be annext 

Unto the third, that his may so be trebly wext." 
The last stanza of the canto ends lamely and with burlesque effect, 
thus : 

' The which, for length, I will not here pursew, 
But rather will reserve it for a Canto new.' 

(Stanza liv.) 
* With Spenser's 

' Ne may Love be compelled by mastery : 
For soon as mastery comes, sweet Love anon 
Taketh his nimble wings, and soon away is gone,' 

(Bk. in., canto i., stanza xxv.) 
compare Chaucer's 

' Love wolle not be constreyn'd by maistery ; 
When maistery cometh, the God of Love anone 
Betith his winges, and farewell he is gone.' 

(Franklin's Tale, lines 2310-2.) 



In Book iv. canto ii., he completes the Squire's 
Tale, which in Chaucer's text was left unfinished. 
Spenser fulfils Chaucer's promise to tell of the chivalric 
contests in which suitors for the hand of the fair Canace 
engaged. This episode was preluded in the Faerie 
Queene by a splendid invocation to his master, to revive 
whose 'English undefiled' was one of his primary 

' Dan Chaucer, well of English undefiled, 
On fame's eternal beadroll worthy to be filed. 

Then pardon, O most sacred happy spirit ! 

That I thy labours lost may thus revive, 

And'steal from thee the meed of thy due merit, 

That none durst ever whilst thou wast alive, 

And being dead in vain yet many strive : 

Ne dare I like ; but, through infusion sweet 

Of thine own spirit which doth in me survive, 

I follow here the footing of thy feet, 

That with thy meaning sojl may the rather meet. ' * 

Spenser's artistic nature was many-sided. Plato's ideal 
ism, equally with Chaucer's homely gaiety and insight, 
His sensi- moulded his mind. But his varied know- 
tiveness to ledge of literature and philosophy went hand 
beauty. j n hand with a different type of endowment 
a sensuous sensitiveness to external aspects of nature. 

' Every sight 

And sound from the vast earth and ambient air 
Sent to his heart its choicest impulses.' 

Especially perfect is the art with which he depicts foun 
tains and rivers and oceans. The magical canto in 
which he describes the marriage of the river Thames 
with the river Medway is rich alike in classical allusion 

* Bk. iv., canto ii., stanzas xxxii. and xxxiv. 


and intimate knowledge of British topography. But 
the varied learning is fused together by an exuberance 
of pictorial fancy and sympathy with natural scenery, 
which give individuality to almost every stream that may 
have come within the poet's cognisance either in litera 
ture or in life. Spenser's power as the poet of nature 
owes its finest quality to his rare genius for echoing in 
verse the varied sounds which natural phenomena pro 
duce in the observer's ear. When he represents a gentle 
flowing river, the metre glides with a corresponding 
placidity. When he describes a tempestuous wind, the 
words rush onwards with an unmistakable roar. In the 
familiar stanzas which follow we hear in living harmonies 
the voices of the birds : 

' Eftsoones they heard a most melodious sound, 
Of all that mote delight a dainty ear, 
Such as at once might not on living ground, 
Save in the Paradise, be heard elsewhere : 
Right hard it was for wight which did it hear, 
To read what manner music that mote be, 
For all that pleasing is to living ear 
Was there consorted in one harmony ; 
Birds, voices, instruments, winds, waters, all agree. 

The joyous birds, shrouded in cheerful shade 
Their notes unto the voice attempred sweet ; 
Th' Angelical soft trembling voices made 
To th' instruments divine respondence meet ; 
The silver sounding instruments did meet 
With the base murmurs of the waters fall ; 
The waters fall with'difference discreet, 
Now soft, now loud, unto the wind did call ; 
The gentle warbling wind low answered to all.' * 

Spenser did not depict physical beauty in men or 
* Bk. II., canto xii., stanzas Ixx.-lxxi. 


women with quite the same abandonment that he 
brought to the sights and sounds of earth or air. But 
although Spenser studied as thoroughly as any poet the 
aspects of physical beauty 'the goodly hue of white 
and red with which the cheeks are sprinkled' his 
philosophic idealism would seldom allow him to content 
himself with the outward appearance. To him as to 
Plato the fair body was merely the external expression 
of an inner spiritual or ideal beauty, which it was the 
duty of reasoning man to worship : 

' So every spirit, as it is most pure 
And hath in it the more of heavenly light, 
So it the fairer body doth procure 
To habit in, and is more fairly dight 
With cheerful grace and amiable sight, 
For of the soul the body form doth take, 
For soul is form, and-doth the body make.' * 

Spenser's influence on the poetic endeavours of his 
own age was very great. Imitations of his allegorical 

method abounded, and one at least of his 
influence disciples, Phineas Fletcher, produced in his 

Purple Island an elaborate allegorical descrip 
tion of the human body, a poem which, despite its defects 
and dependence on the Faerie Queene, does no dishon 
our to its source. Charles Lamb justly called Spenser 
' the poet's poet.' Probably no poem is qualified equally 
with the Faerie Queene to endow the seeds of poetic 
genius in youthful minds with active life. Cowley's con 
fession is capable of much pertinent illustration in the 
biography of other poets. ' I believe,' wrote Cowley, 
'I can tell the particular little chance that filled my 
head first with such chimes of verse as have never since 

* An Hymne in Honour of Beautie, 11. 127-133. 


left ringing there ; for I remember, when I began to 
read and take some pleasure in it, there was wont to lie 
in my mother's parlour (I know not by what accident, 
for she herself never in her life read any book but of 
devotion) ; but there was wont to lie Spenser's Works ; 
this I happened to fall upon, and was infinitely delighted 
with the stories of the knights and giants, and monsters, 
and brave horses which I found everywhere there 
(though my understanding had little to do with all this) ; 
and by degrees with the tinkling of the rhyme and dance 
of the numbers, so that I had read him all before I 
was twelve years old, and was thus made a poet.' 

The variety of Spenser's excellences caused his work 
to appeal in different ways to different men. The boy 
Cowley was fascinated by his chivalric tales The variety 
of wonder and the ringing harmony of his of his excel- 
verse. Milton was chiefly impressed by the knees, 
profundity of his ideal philosophy ; Bunyan by his moral 
earnestness. Dryden did homage to him as his master 
in poetic speech, although he deemed his learning his 
crowning merit. In the eighteenth century the impulse 
to poetic effort which was inherent in his writings showed 
no sign of decay. James Thomson and Robert Burns, 
Shelley and Keats, Byron and Campbell, worked with 
varying skill in the Spenserian stanza, and, by the uses 
to which they put their master's metrical instrument, 
added to the masterpieces of English poetry. The 
poems penned in the stanza of the Faerie Queene include 
the Cottar's Saturday Night by Burns, the Eve of St. 
Agnes by Keats, and Childe Harold by Byron, and all 
reflect glory on the stanza's inventor. But Spenser's 
work is an inexhaustible fountain of poetic inspiration, 
and none can define the limits of its influence. 


1 The mind is the man. ... A man is but what he 
knoweth.' BACON, Praise of Knowledge, 1592. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. Bacon's life and work may be studied in 
full in the Life and Letters, by James Spedding, 7 vols., 
1861-74, an ^ in the Works, edited by J. Spedding, R. L. 
Ellis, and D. D. Heath, 7 vols., 1857-9. The best sum 
mary of his life and work is Francis Bacon, an Account of 
his Life and Works, by the Rev. E. A. Abbott, D.D., 
1885. The text of his chief English writings was published 
in a convenient volume, at a small price, by George 
Newnes, Limited, in 1902. Of modern annotated reprints 
of the Essays, those edited respectively by Dr. Abbott 
(1879), and by Samuel Harvey Reynolds (Clarendon Press, 
1890), are most worthy of study. A valuable Harmony of 
the Essays the text of the four chief editions in parallel 
columns was prepared by Professor Edward Arber in 1869. 
The Advancement of Learning was edited by Dr. Aldis 
Wright for the Clarendon Press in the same year. ] 

WE now approach the highest but one of the peaks of 
intellectual greatness which were scaled in England by 
An ascend- sons of the Renaissance. Spenser was a great 
ing scale of poet and moralist, one who sought to teach 
greatness. men morality by means of poetry, one who 
could weave words into harmonious sequence, one 


who could draw music from ordinary speech, with a 
sureness of touch that only two or three men in the 
world's history Virgil, perhaps, alone among the classi 
cal poets, and Milton most conspicuously among the 
modern poets have excelled. But if we deduct Spen 
ser's aesthetic power and moral enthusiasm from the sum 
of his achievement, if we turn to measure the calibre of 
Spenser's intellect or the width of his mental horizon, 
if we estimate the extent by which he advanced human 
thought beyond the limits that human thought had 
already commanded, we cannot fail to admit (difficult 
as any precise comparison may be) that Bacon, with 
whom I now deal, is Spenser's intellectual superior. 

Not that Bacon himself is the highest peak in the 
range of sixteenth-century English enlightenment. Giant 
as Bacon was in the realm of mind, in the empire of 
human intellect, Shakespeare, his contemporary, mani 
fested an intellectual capacity that places Bacon himself 
in the second place. 

From every point of view the interval that separates 
Bacon from Shakespeare is a wide one. An illogical 

tendency has of late years developed in un- 
...,.,.., , -A j Bacons 

disciplined minds to detect m Bacon and and 

Shakespeare a single personality. One shake- 
has heard of brains which, when subjected speare's 
to certain excitements, cause their possessors 
to see double, to see two objects when only 
one is in view ; but it is equal proof of un 
stable, unsteady intellectual balance which leads a man 
or woman to see single, to see one individuality when 
they are in the presence of two individualities, each 
definite and distinct. The intellect of both Shakespeare 
and Bacon may well be termed miraculous. The facts 


of biography may be unable to account for the emer 
gence of the one or the other, but they can prove con 
vincingly that no two great minds of a single era pursued 
literary paths more widely dissevered. To assume, 
without an iota of sound evidence, that both Shake 
speare's and Bacon's intellect were housed in a single 
brain is unreal mockery. It is an irresponsibly fantastic 
dream which lies outside the limits of reason. 

The accessible details of Bacon's biography are more 
numerous and more complicated than in the case of 
The study Shakespeare, or any other writer of the age. 
of Bacon's His life, intellectually and materially, is fuller 
life and of known incident ; his writings are more 
work. voluminous; his extant letters and private 

memoranda are more accessible. His work is noble; 
his life is ignoble. ' But in order to understand his intri 
cate character, in order fully to appreciate his psycho 
logical interest, in order fully to appreciate his place in 
the history of literature and science, both his biography 
and his work demand almost equally close study. 

Bacon came of no mean stock. His father, Sir 
Nicholas Bacon, was Lord Keeper of the Great Seal, 
, the chief Law Officer of England, who exer- 
parents cised the authority of Lord High Chancellor. 
Sir Nicholas was thus a successor of Sir 
Thomas More. He was of a merry, easy-going disposi 
tion, with a pronounced love of literature and a gift of 
eloquent speech. He freely and without compunction 
engaged in the political intrigue which infected the 


queen's court, and made no greater pretence than his 
contemporaries to superfine political virtue. Bacon's 
mother, his father's second wife, was a woman of para 
doxical character. Her great learning and scholarship 
were of the true Renaissance type ; she was at home in 
most of the classical and post-classical authors of Greece 
and Rome. But her main characteristic was a fiery 
religious zeal. She belonged to the narrowest and least 
amiable sect of the Calvinists, and her self-righteous 
temper led her to rule her household and her children 
with a crabbed rigour that did not diminish with age. 
In feature Bacon closely resembled his stern-complex- 
ioned mother, and although her sour pietism did not 
descend to him, her love of literature, as well as the 
resolute self-esteem which her creed harboured in her, 
was woven into the web of his character. Lady Bacon 
was highly connected : her sister married Lord Burgh- 
ley, Queen Elizabeth's powerful Treasurer and Prime 
Minister. The Prime Minister of the day therefore 
stood to Bacon in the relation of uncle. 

Bacon thus began life with great advantages. He was 
son of the Lord Chancellor and nephew of the Prime 
Minister. It is difficult in England to be more His advan- 
influentially related. His family was not tage of 
rich, but it was reasonably provided for. As birth - 
far as social position went, he could not have been 
better placed. 

Francis Bacon was born in 1561 at his father's official 
residence in London, York House in the Strand, of 

which the water-gate alone survives. Queen 
_-.,.,, , , , Birth and 

Elizabeth had come to the throne three years educat ; on> 

before. Shakespeare was born three years 

after. When he was a child, before he was thirteen, 


Bacon was sent, as the custom then was, to a university 
to Trinity College, Cambridge, a recently founded 
institution which was even then acquiring great edu 
cational traditions. He was there for two years, 
and at the age of fifteen returned to London to study 

Bacon was an extraordinarily thoughtful boy, full of 

great ambitions, all lying within a well-defined compass. 

He wished to be a great man, to do work by 

which he might be remembered, to do work 

that should be beneficial to the human race. 

With that self-confidence which he owed to his mother, 
he judged himself to be, almost from childhood, capable 
of improving man's reasoning faculties ; of extending 
the range of man's knowledge, especially his knowledge 
of natural science and the causes of natural phenomena. 
When his father first brought him to court as a boy, the 
queen was impressed by his thoughtful demeanour, and 
laughingly dubbed him, in allusion to his father's office, 
her 'young Lord Keeper.' It is difficult to match in 
history even in the fertile epoch of the Renaissance 
either Bacon's youthful precocity, or the closeness and 
fidelity with which he kept before his mind through life 
the ambitions which he formed in youth. 


Three impressionable years of Bacon's youth from 
his fifteenth to his eighteenth year were spent at the 
English Embassy in Paris in the capacity of a very 
junior secretary. The experience widened his outlook 
on life and gave him a first taste of diplomacy. But 


his father had destined Francis for his own profession 
of law, and the lad returned to England to follow his 
father's wishes. He worked at his profession 

with industry. But it excited in him no e p l ? CS 
* . sion or law. 

enthusiasm. He regarded it as a means to an 
end. His father died when Francis was eighteen. His 
example endowed the lad with the belief that intrigue 
was the key to worldly prosperity. A very narrow 
income was his only tangible bequest. But a com 
petence, an ample supply of money, was needful if 
Bacon were to achieve those advances in science, if 
he were to carry to a successful issue those high resolves 
to extend the limit of human knowledge which he held 
to be his mission in life. ' He knew him- 
self,' he repeatedly declared, ' to be fitter to idealism 
hold a book than to play a part on the active 
stage of affairs.' For affairs he said he was not ' fit by 
Nature and more unfit by the preoccupation of his mind.' 
Yet he did not hesitate to seek early admission to ' the 
active stage of affairs.' His nature was so framed that 
he felt it his duty to devote himself to work in the world 
in which he felt no genuine interest, in order 
to acquire that worldly fortune, that worldly m at er ialism. 
position and worldly influence without which 
he regarded it to be impossible to carry into effect his 
intellectual ambition, his intellectual mission. Never 
were materialism and idealism woven so firmly together 
into the texture of a man's being. ' I cannot realise the 
great ideal,' he said in effect, 'which I came into the 
world and am qualified to reach, unless I am well off 
and influential in the merely material way.' The inevit 
able sequel was the confession that much of his life was 
misspent ' in things for which he was least fit, so, as I 


may truly say, my soul hath been a stranger in the 
course of my pilgrimage.' 

The profession of the law had prizes which he hoped 
that the influence of his uncle, the Prime Minister, 
His en- might open to him. But Lord Burghley, 
trance into unlike English officers of state of later periods, 
politics. W as n ot always eager to aid his relatives, and 
Bacon's early hopes of legal preferment were not ful 
filled. However, when Bacon was twenty-three, his 
uncle did so much service for him as to secure for him 
a seat in Parliament. He entered the House of Com 
mons in 1584, and he remained a member of the House 
for more than thirty years. A lawyer in England often 
finds it extremely advantageous to himself in the 
material sense to identify himself with politics at the 
same time as he practises at the bar. This plan Bacon 
readily adopted. He at once flung himself into the 
discussion of the great political questions of the day in 
the same spirit as that in which he approached the pro 
fession of the law. At all hazards he must advance 
himself, he must build up a material fortune. If the 
intellectual work to which he was called were to be done 
at all, no opportunity of securing the material where 
withal was he justified in rejecting. That is the principle 
which inspired Bacon's attitude to politics as well as to 
law ; that is the principle which inspired every action 
of his life outside the walls of his study. 

Naturally as a politician he became an opportunist. 
His intellectual abilities enabled him to form enlightened 

views of political questions, views in advance 
His attitude r ,. -r, , , , 

r ,. -r, , , , 

to politics a S e ' ^ ut ms ic ieal was not m 

His scheme of life compelled him to adapt 
his private views in politics to suit the views of those in 


authority, so as to gain advancement from them. In his 
early days in the House of Commons he sought to steer 
a middle course his aim being so to express his genuine 
political opinions or convictions, which were wise in 
themselves, as to give them a chance of acceptance from 
those in authority. He urged on the Government the 
wisdom of toleration in matters of religion. Aggressive 
persecution of minorities appeared to him in his heart 
to be unstatesmanlike as well as inhuman. But he care 
fully watched the impression his views created. He was 
not prepared to sacrifice any chance of material advance 
ment to his principles. If his own political views proved 
unacceptable to those who could help him on, he must 
substitute others with which the men of influence were 
in fuller sympathy. 

Very methodical by nature, Bacon systematised as a 
young man practical rules of conduct on which he re 
lied for the advancement of his material in- His work- 
terests, and for the consequent acquisition of ing scheme 
the opportunity of working out his philoso- of life, 
phical aims in the interests of mankind. He drew up a 
series of maxims, a series of precepts for getting on, for 
bettering one's position for the architecture, as he 
called it, of one's fortune. Of these precepts, which 
form a cynical comment on Bacon's character and on 
his conception of social intercourse, this much may be 
said in their favour, that they get behind the screen of 
conventional hypocrisies. They are not wholly original. 
In spirit, at any rate, they resemble the unblushing 
counsel which Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman and 
historian of the sixteenth century, offered to politicians. 
The utility of Machiavellian doctrines Bacon's father 
had acknowledged. Machiavelli and his kind were 


among Bacon's heroes : ' We are much beholden to 
Machiavelli and others,' he remarked in the Advance 
ment of Learning, ' that wrote what men do, not what 
they ought to do.' But Bacon's compendium of pro 
verbial philosophy, whatever its debt to others, reveals 
his individuality as clearly as anything to which he set 
his pen. 

Bacon laid it down that the best way to enforce one's 
views upon those in authority was by appearing to agree 
with them, and by avoiding any declared dis 
agreement with them. 'Avoid repulse.' he 
precepts. . r ' 

said; 'never row against the stream. Prac 
tise deceit, dissimulation, whenever it can be made to 
pay, but at the same time secure the reputation of being 
honest and outspoken. ' Have openness in fame and 
repute, secrecy in habit ; dissimulation in seasonable 
use, and a power to feign if there be no remedy ; mix 
ture of falsehood is like alloy in coin of gold and silver 
which may make the metal work better.' Always show 
off your abilities to the best advantage ; always try to do 
better than your neighbours. But on none of his rules 
of conduct does Bacon lay greater stress, than on the 
suggestion that the best and most rapid way of getting 
The uses n ^ s to accommodate oneself to the ways of 
of great great men, to bind oneself hand and foot 
men. to g rea t men. This rule Bacon sought with 

varying success to put into practice many times during 
his life. 


In 1591, when Bacon was thirty, a first opportunity 
of coming advancement through intimate association 


with a man of position seemed to present itself. He 
obtained an introduction to a young nobleman of great 
ambition and no little influence, the Earl of Bacon's 
Essex. He was Bacon's junior by six years, relations 
He was as passionate and impulsive a young with Essex, 
gentleman as could be found among Elizabethans, but 
he was not altogether without consciousness of his own 
defects. He was not blind to the worth of sobriety and 
foresight in others. The cool and wary good sense of 
Bacon attracted him ; Bacon's abilities impressed him. 
Bacon deliberately planned his relationship with Essex 
to secure his own preferment. He attached himself to 
Essex, he said, ' in a manner which happeneth rarely 
among men.' He would do the best he could with him 
in all ways. Essex might prove a fit instrument to do 
good to the State as well as to himself. He would per 
suade Essex to carry through certain political reforms 
which required great personal influence to bring them 
to the serious notice of the authorities. At the same 
time Essex was either to secure for his mentor dignified 
and remunerative office, or to be swept out of his path. 
The first episode of the partnership was not promis 
ing. The high legal office of Attorney-General fell 
vacant. Bacon's enthusiastic patron, Essex, An un- 
was readily induced to apply for the post in promising 
Bacon's behalf. But Essex met with a serious opening, 
rebuff. A deaf ear was turned by the queen and the 
Prime Minister to the proposal. Essex was as dis 
appointed as Bacon himself. He quixotically judged 
himself in honour bound to compensate Bacon for the 
loss. He gave him a piece of land at Twickenham, 
which Bacon afterwards sold for ^1800. For a moment 
this failure daunted Bacon. After so discouraging an 


experience he seriously considered with himself whether 
it were not wiser for him altogether to forsake the law, 
the prizes in which seemed beyond his reach, and devote 
himself entirely to the scientific study which was his 
true end in life. It would have been better for his fame 
had he yielded to the promptings of the inner voice. 
But he was in need of money. With conscious mis 
givings he resolved to keep to the difficult path on which 
he had embarked. 

The outlook did not immediately grow brighter. 
Closer acquaintance with Essex convinced Bacon that 
Essex dis- he was not the man either to carry through 
appoints any far-reaching political reforms or to aid 
Bacon. n j s own advancement. He was proving him 
self captious and jealous-tempered. He was not main 
taining his hold upon the queen's favour. Bacon 
energetically urged on him petty tricks of conduct 
whereby he might win and retain the queen's favour. 
He drew up a series of obsequious speeches which would 
fit a courtier's lips and might convince a sovereign 
that the man who spoke them to her deserved her 

Finally Bacon sought a bold means of release from 
a doubtful situation. He thoroughly appreciated the 
The difficult problem which the government of 

government Ireland offered Elizabethan statesmen, and 
of Ireland, he plainly told Essex that Ireland was his 
destiny ; Ireland was ' one of the aptest particulars for 
your Lordship to purchase honour on.' Bacon steadily 
pressed his patron to seek the embarrassing post of 
Governor or Lord Deputy of the distracted country. 
The counsel took effect. The arduous office was con 
ferred on Essex. His patron's case, as it presented 


itself to Bacon's tortuous mind, was one of kill or 
cure. Glory was to be gained by pacifying Ireland, 
by bringing her under peaceful rule. Infamy, enforced 
withdrawal from public life, was the reward of failure. 
The task was admittedly hard, and called for greater 
prudence than any of which Essex had yet given signs. 
But Bacon, from his point of view, thought it desirable 
that Essex should have the opportunity of achieving 
some definite triumph in life which would render his 
future influence supreme. Or if he were incapable of 
conspicuous success in life, then the more patent his 
inefficiency became, and the quicker he was set on one 
side, the better for his protege's future. 

Essex completely failed in Ireland, and he was ordered 
to answer for his conduct in the arbitrary Court of the 
Star Chamber. Thereupon Bacon set to 
work with Machiavellian skill to turn an ap- r ^ 
parently unpromising situation to his own 
advantage. He sought and obtained permission to 
appear at the inquiry into Essex's conduct as one of the 
Counsel for the Crown. He protested to the end that 
he was really working diplomatically in Essex's 'behalf, 
but he revealed the secret of his conduct when he also 
plainly told Essex that the queen's favour was after all 
more valuable to him than the earl's. His further 
guarded comment that he loved few persons better than 
his patron struck a hardly less cynical note. 

Essex was ultimately released from imprisonment on 
parole ; but he then embarked on very violent courses. 
He sought to stir up a rebellion against the 
queen and her advisers in London. He death 
placed himself in a position which exposed 
him to the penalties of high treason. Bacon again 


sought advantage from his patron's errors. He again 
appeared for the Crown at Essex's formal trial on the 
capital charge of treason. His advocacy did much to 
bring Essex's guilt home to the judges. With inhuman 
coolness Bacon addressed himself to the prisoner, and 
explained to him the heaviness of his offence. Finally 
Essex was condemned to death, and was executed on 
25th February 1601. 

Bacon sacrificed all ordinary considerations of honour 
in his treatment of Essex. But his principles of active 
, life deprived friendship of meaning for him. 
erfi'd S ^ e mater i a l benefit to be derived by one 
man from association with another alone en 
tered into his scheme of self-advancement, and self- 
advancement was the only principle which he understood 
to govern ' the active stage of affairs.' 

The death of Elizabeth opened new prospects to 
Bacon, but the story of his life followed its old drift. 

He naturally sought the favour of the new 
Bacon and , . T ^ , , , 

Tames i king, James i. Naturally he would accom 
modate his own political opinions to those 
of a new king. The royal influence must, if it were 
possible, be drawn his way, be drawn towards him, be 
pressed into his individual service. Bacon probably at 
the outset had hopes of inducing the king to accept and 
act upon the good counsel that he should offer him, just 
as at the opening of their relations he thought it possible 
that he might lead Essex to take his enlightened advice. 
It was reported that the king was not devoid of large 


ideas. Bacon, who was never a good judge of men, 
may have credited the report. He may not have seen 
at first that James was without earnest purpose in life ; 
that the king's intellect was cast in a narrow mould; 
that an extravagant sense of his own importance mainly 
dominated its working. Yet there was this excuse for 
Bacon's misapprehension : James was inquisitively 
minded. He was at times willing to listen to the ex 
position of good principles, however great his disinclina 
tion to put them into practice. 

By way of experiment, Bacon at the outset proffered 
King James i. some wise counsel. He repeated his old 
arguments for toleration in matters of religion. 

Bacon set forth these views as mere ballons ., v ? c . e 

the king. 

a essai, as straws to show him which way the 
wind blew. As soon as Bacon saw that the wind in the 
royal quarter was not blowing in the direction of. tolera 
tion, he tacked about to win the breeze of royal approval 
some other way. He supported persecution. Happily 
another proposal of his was grateful to the new king. 
Bacon recommended a political union, a political amal 
gamation of the two kingdoms of England and Scotland, 
of both of which James was now king. It was a wise 
plan in the circumstances, and one entirely congenial to 
the new Scottish monarch of England. James was not 
slow to mark his approval of Bacon's advice on the 
point, and Bacon's material prospects brightened. 

James's reign was a critical period in English history. 
Bacon's depth of intellectual vision enabled him to fore 
see, perhaps more clearly than any other man The 
of his age, the growing danger of a breach political 
between the king and the people's representa- situation, 
tives in the House of Commons. The English people 


was learning its political strength; the English people 
was learning the value of personal liberty, although the 
mass of them only hazily recognised the importance of 
self-government. Sir Walter Ralegh had enunciated 
the principle that ' in every just state some part of the 
government is or ought to be imparted to the people.' 
There was a growing conviction that government for the 
good of the many, rather than for the good of any one 
man, was essential to the full enjoyment of life. Govern 
ment for the good of a sovereign who failed to move in 
the people any personal enthusiasm was certain to prove 
sooner or later an intolerable burden. Bacon acknow 
ledged it to be the duty of a true statesman to seek to 
reconcile the two conflicting forces, the power of the 
king and the reasonable claims of the people. He had 
no faith in democracy ; he believed in the one-man rule 
probably as sincerely as he believed in any political 
principle. The future peace of the country depended, 
in Bacon's view, on the king on his power and will to 
dispense equal justice among his subjects, and to con 
form to his subjects' just wishes on matters affecting 
their personal liberties. The king should be persuaded 
to exert his power and will to this end. But the prob 
lem of how best to reconcile king and people was not 
one that could be solved by mere assumption of the 
king's benevolent intentions. Unless a man championed 
great principles, and applied them to the problem with 
out fear of forfeiting royal favour, he wasted breath and 
ink. Bacon had no intention of imperilling his relations 
with the king, or sacrificing his personal chances of pre 
ferment. However clearly he may have diagnosed the 
situation, he had not moral fibre enough materially to 
shape its course of development. 



Bacon was eager to derive personal profit from any 
turn of the political wheel. Yet with the singular versa 
tility that characterised him, he, amid all the Literary 
bustle of the political world in which he had occupa- 
immersed himself, found time to pursue his tions. 
true vocation. Before Queen Elizabeth died he had 
produced the first edition of his Essays^ those terse ob 
servations on life which placed him in. the first rank of 
Elizabethan men of letters.* They were penetrating 
reflections on human nature and conduct which seemed 
to come from a sober observer of affairs, from one of 
infinitely varied experience, from a thinker not unduly 
biassed by his material interests. Revision and enlarge 
ment of his Essays constantly occupied Bacon's scanty 
leisure till his death. 

In 1605, two years after James's accession, there ap 
peared a far more convincing proof of disinterested 
devotion to things of the mind. Bacon then published 

* The first edition of the Essays appeared in 1597, and con 
sisted only of ten essays together with two pieces called respectively 
' Sacred Meditations,' and ' Colours of Good and Evil.' This 
volume was reprinted without alteration in 1598 and 1606. A re 
vised version which came out in 1612 brought the number of essays 
up to thirty-eight. Other editions followed, including a Latin 
translation by the author and translations by English friends into 
both Italian and French. The final edition, the publication of 
which Bacon superintended, is dated 1625 (the year before his 
death), and supplied as many as fifty-eight essays. An addition 
to the collection, a fragment of an essay of ' Fame,' appeared 
posthumously. This was included by Dr. William Rawley, 
Bacon's chaplain, into whose hands his master's manuscripts passed 
at his death, in the miscellaneous volume which Rawley edited in 
1657 under the title of Resuscitatio. 


his greatest contribution in English to philosophical 
literature, his Advancement of Learning. It was a popular 
work, treating eloquently of the excellence of knowledge 
and noting in detail the sufficiency and insufficiency of 
its present state. Bacon surveyed fairly and sagaciously 
all existing departments of knowledge, and indicated 
where progress was most essential The noble volume 
was intended to prepare the minds of readers for the 
greater venture which absorbed Bacon's thoughts, the 
exposition of a new philosophy, a new instrument of 
thought, the Novum Organum. This new instrument 
was designed first to enable man to interpret nature and 
thereby realise of what the forces of nature were capable, 
and then to give him the power of adapting those forces 
to his own purposes. In the completion of that great 
design lay Bacon's genuine ambition ; from birth to 
death, political office, the rewards of the legal profession, 
money profits, anxious as he was to win them, were 
means to serve his attainment of that great end. All 
material successes in life were, in his view, crude earth 
works which protected from assault and preserved intact 
the citadel of his being. 

Slowly but surely the material recognition, the emolu 
ments for which he hungered, came Bacon's way. In 
M . 1606, at the age of forty-five, he married. 

His wife was the daughter of an alderman in 
the city of London, and brought him a good dowry. 
Little is known of Bacon's domestic life, and some 
mystery overhangs its close. He had no children, but 
according to his earliest biographer he was a considerate 
and generous husband.* In the last year of his life, 

* Dr. William Rawley, Bacon's chaplain, in his Life, ed. 1670, 
p. 6, writes with some obvious economy of truth : ' Neither did 


however, he believed he had serious ground of com 
plaint against his wife, and the munificent provision 
which he made for her in the text of his will he in a 
concluding paragraph, ' for just and grave causes, utterly 
revoked and made void, leaving her to her right only.' 
He acquired a love of magnificence in his domestic life, 
which he indulged to an extent that caused him pecu 
niary embarrassments. It was soon after he entered the 
estate of matrimony that he put in order, at vast expense, 
the property at Gorhambury, near St. Albans, which his 
father had acquired, and he built upon the land there a 
new country residence of great dimensions, Verulam 
House. In the decoration and furnishing of the mansion 
he spent far more than he could afford. There he main 
tained a retinue of servants the number of whom, 
it was said, was hardly exceeded in the palace of the 

Bacon's material resources rapidly grew after his 
marriage. A year later he received his first official pro 
motion. In 1607 he was made Solicitor- 
General, a high legal office, and one well 
remunerated. He had waited long for such 
conspicuous advancement. He was now forty-six years 
old, and the triumph did not cause him undue elation. 
He suffered, he writes, much depression during the 
months that followed. But his ambition was far from 

the want of children detract from his good usage of his consort 
during the intermarriage ; whom he prosecuted, with much con 
jugal love and respect : with many rich gifts, and endowments ; 
besides a robe of honour, which he invested her withal : which she 
wore until her dying day, being twenty years and more, after his 
death.' According to Aubrey, after Bacon's death she married 
her gentleman-usher, Sir Thomas Underbill, and survived the 
execution of Charles I. in 1649. 


satiated. A repetition of the experience happily 
brought him greater content. Six years 

n< 7~ later, at fifty-two, he was promoted to the 
General. * ' 

more responsible and more highly remun 
erated office of Attorney-General. 


The breach between the king and his people was 
meanwhile widening. The Commons were reluctant to 

grant the king's demand for money without 
caJ 6 eril' ^ exactm g guarantees of honest government 

guarantees for the expenditure of the people's 
money in a way that should benefit them. Such de 
mands and criticism the king warmly resented. He was 
bent on ruling autocratically. He would draw taxes 
from his people at his unfettered will. The hopeless 
ness of expecting genuine benefit to the nation from 
James's exercise of authority was now apparent Had 
Bacon been a high-minded, disinterested politician, with 
drawal from the king's service would have been the only 
course open to him ; but he had an instinctive respect 
for authority, his private expenses were mounting high, 
and he was at length reaping pecuniary rewards in the 
legal and political spheres. Bacon deliberately chose 
the worser way. He abandoned in practice the last 
shreds of his political principles ; he gave up all hope of 
bringing about an accommodation on lines of right and 
justice between the king and the people. He made up 
his mind to remain a servant of the crown, with the 
single and unpraiseworthy end of benefiting his own 


Tricks and subterfuges, dissimulation, evasion, were 
thenceforth Bacon's political resources. He soon sought 
assiduously the favour of the king's new and Bacon and 
worthless favourite, the Duke of Bucking- Bucking 
ham. For a fleeting moment he seems to ham - 
have tried to deceive himself, as he had tried to deceive 
himself in the case of Essex and of the king, into the 
notion that this selfish, unprincipled courtier might im 
press a statesmanlike ideal on the king's government. 
Bacon offered Buckingham some advice under this mis 
conception. But Bacon quickly recognised his error. 
The good counsel was not repeated. He finally aban 
doned himself exclusively to the language of unblushing 
adulation in his intercourse with the favourite in order 
to benefit by the favourite's influence. 

Bacon's policy gained him all the success that he 
could have looked for. A greater promotion than any 
he had enjoyed soon befell him. The Lord 
Keepership of the Great Seal, the highest Keeper 
legal office, to which belonged the functions of 
the Lord Chancellor, became vacant. It was the post 
which Bacon's father had filled, and the son proposed 
himself to Buckingham as a candidate. Bacon secured 
the lofty dignity on the ground that the favourite thought 
he might prove a useful, subservient tool. But a rough 
justice governed thepolitical world evenin James i.'s reign. 
Bacon's elevation to the high office proved his ruin. 

Bacon was now not only the foremost judge in the 
land, but was also chief member of the King's Lord Ver u- 
Council. He had become, however, the mere lam and 
creature of the crown, and all his political Viscount 
intelligence he suffered to run to waste. The St> Alban - 
favourite, Buckingham, was supreme with the king, and 


Bacon played a very subordinate part in discussions of 
high policy. He obsequiously assented to measures 
which he knew to be disastrous, and even submitted 
meekly to the personal humiliations which subservience 
to Buckingham an exacting master entailed. For a 
time his pusillanimity continued to bring rewards. In 
1618 he was raised to the peerage, as Baron Verulam ; 
in 1619 he exchanged without alteration of functions the 
title of Lord Keeper of the Great Seal for the more 
dignified style of Lord High Chancellor of England. 
Two years later he was advanced to a higher rank of 
nobility as Viscount St. Alban. His paternal estate, on 
which he had built his sumptuous pleasure-house, lay 
near the city of St. Albans, and adjoined the neighbour 
ing site of the Roman city of Verulamium. He felt a 
scholar's pride in associating his name with a relic of 
ancient Rome. 

It may be admitted that Bacon's quick intelligence 
rendered him a very efficient and rapid judge in his 
. court, the Court of Chancery. He rapidly 

cialwork cleared off arrears of business, and seems 
to have done as a rule substantial justice to 
suitors. But he was not, even in his own court, his 
own master. The favourite, Buckingham, inundated 
him with letters requesting him to show favour to 
friends of his who were interested in causes in Bacon's 
court. Bacon's moral sense was too weak to permit 
resistance to the favourite's insolent demands. 

Bacon's moral perception was indeed blurred past 
The ap- recovery. Servility to the king and his 
preaching favourite had obvious dangers, of which he 
danger. failed to take note. Resentment was rising in 
the country against the royal power, and that rebellious 


sentiment was certain sooner or later to threaten with 
disaster those who for worldly gain bartered their souls 
to the king and his minion. The wheel was coming full 


Yet so full of contradiction is Bacon's career, that it 
was when he stood beneath the shadow of the ruin 
which was to destroy his worldly fortune and The Novum 
repute that he crowned the edifice of his Organum, 
philosophical ambition, which was to bring l620 - 
him imperishable glory. In 1620 he published his 
elaborate Latin treatise, Novum Organum. It is only 
a fragment an unfinished second instalment of that 
projected encyclopaedia in which he designed to unfold 
the innermost secrets of nature. But such as it is, the 
Novum Organum is the final statement of his philo 
sophic and scientific position. It expounds 'the new 
instrument,' the logical method of induction whereby 
nature was thenceforth to be rightly questioned, and her 
replies to be rightly interpreted. The book is the 
citadel of Bacon's philosophic system. To this exposi 
tion of his ultimate aim in life Bacon justly attached 
the highest importance. Twelve times amid the 
bustle of public business had he rewritten the ample 
treatise before he ventured on its publication. For 
twelve years, amid all the preoccupation of his public 
career, a draft of the volume had never been far from 
his hand. 

The Novum Organum was obsequiously dedicated to 
the king. A very few months later, the irony of fate 
was finally to bring home to Bacon the error of dividing 


his allegiance between intellectual ideals and worldly 
honours and riches. For eight years James had sus- 
The wrath pended the sittings of Parliament. But money 
of Parlia- difficulties were growing desperate. At length 
ment. the king resolved on the perilous device of 

making a fresh appeal to Parliament to extricate him 
from his embarrassments. Bacon was well aware of 
the exasperated state of public feeling, but with a 
curiously mistaken faith in himself and^in his reputa 
tion, he deemed his own position perfectly secure. 
When Parliament met he discovered his error. At 
first he sought to close his eyes to the true character 
of the crisis, but they were soon rudely opened. His 
enemies were numerous in the House of Commons, and 
were in no gentle mood. 

Heated censure was passed on Bacon and on others 
of the king's associates as soon as the session opened. 
The charge Quickly a specific charge was brought against 
ofcormp- him. Two petitions were presented to the 
tion. House of Commons by suitors in Bacon's 

court charging him with taking bribes in his court, 
with corrupting justice. The charge was undisguised. 
There was no chance of misapprehending its gravity, 
but with characteristic insensibility, Bacon affected to 
regard the attack as some puerile outcome of spite. 
He asserted that it was unworthy of consideration. 
The House of Commons, however, referred the com 
plaints to the House of Lords, and the Lords took the 
matter too seriously to leave Bacon longer in doubt of 
his danger. 

As soon as the scales dropped from his eyes, the 
shock unmanned him. He fell ill, and was unable to 
leave his house. Fresh charges of corrupting justice 


were brought against him, and he was called upon for an 
answer. Seeking and obtaining an interview with the 
king, he confessed to his sovereign that he had , 

taken presents from suitors, but he solemnly ,, 
asseverated that he had received none before 
the cause was practically decided. He denied that gifts 
had ever led him to pervert justice. Unluckily, evidence 
was forthcoming that at any rate he took a bribe while 
one cause was pending. 

As soon as he studied the details of the indictment, 
Bacon perceived that defence was impossible, and his 
failing nerve allowed him to do no more than His con- 
throw himself on the mercy of his peers. His fession of 
accusers pressed for a definite answer to the S ullt - 
accusation, but he gave none. He declined to enter 
into details. He declared in writing that he was heartily 
sorry and truly penitent for the corruption and neglect 
of which he confessed himself guilty. 

The story is a pitiful one. Bacon, reduced to the last 
stage of nervous prostration, figures in a most ignoble 

light throughout the proceedings. He turned 

. r . f f His punish- 

his back to the smiter in a paroxysm of fear. men 

On the ist of May 1621 he was dismissed 
from his office of Lord Chancellor, and two days later, 
in his absence through illness, sentence was pro 
nounced upon him by the House of Lords. He was 
ordered to pay a fine of ^40,000 and to be imprisoned 
for life, and was declared incapable of holding any office 
in the State. 

Thus ended in deep disgrace Bacon's active career. 
The king humanely relieved him of his punishment, and 
he was set free with the heavy fine unpaid. He retired 
from London to his house at St. Albans. Driven from 


public life, he naturally devoted himself to literature 
and science to those .spheres of labour which he 
believed himself brought into the world to 
pursue. Although his health was broken, 
his intellect was unimpaired by his ruin, and 
he engaged with renewed energy in literary composition, 
in philosophical speculation, and in scientific experiment. 
His literary The first fruit of his enforced withdrawal 
and scienti- from official business was a . rapidly written 
fie occupa- monograph on Henry vn. He essayed his- 
tion. tory, he boldly said, because, being deprived 

of the opportunity of doing his country 'service,' 'it 
remained to him to do it honour.' His Reign of King 
Henry VIL is a vivid historical picture, independent in 
tone and of substantial accuracy. More germane to his 
previous labours was a first instalment of a large collec 
tion of scientific facts and observations, which he pub 
lished in Latin in the same year as his account of 
Henry vn. (1622), under the title Historia Naturalis et 
Experimentalis ad Condendam Philosophiam (Natural 
and Experimental History for the Foundation of Phi 
losophy). Next year there followed De Augmentis 
Scientiarum, an enlarged version in Latin of his Ad 
vancement of Learning. 

To the last Bacon, with characteristic perversity, 
declined to realise the significance of his humiliation. 
His vain Of tne sentence passed upon him, he re- 
hope of marked before he died, ' It was the justest 
rehabilita- censure in Parliament that was these two 
hundred years.' But he prefaced this opinion 
with the qualification, ' I was the justest judge that was 
in England these fifty years.' As his life was closing, 
he cherished wild hopes of regaining the king's favour, 


even of returning to the domain of politics out of which 
he had passed so ignominiously. He offered to draw 
up a Digest of the Law, to codify the Law. He still 
addressed his patron of the past, King James, with the 
same adulation as of old. But fortunately for himself 
these ill-conceived efforts failed. When Charles I. came 
to the throne on the death of his father James i., Bacon 
imagined that a new opportunity was opened to him, 
and he petitioned for that full pardon which would have 
enabled him to take his seat in Parliament. But his 
advances were then for a last time brusquely repulsed. 


Although Bacon's health was shattered and he could 
not yield himself in patience to exclusion from the 

public stage of affairs, his scientific enthu- 

u- u on. j- ,. His death, 

siasm still ran high. 1 he immediate cause 

of his death was an adventure inspired by scientific 
curiosity. At the end of March 1626, being near 
Highgate, on a snowy day, he left his coach to collect 
snow with which he meant to stuff a hen in order to 
observe the effect of cold on the preservation of its 
flesh.* He was thus a pioneer of the art of refrigera- 

* This circumstance rests on the testimony of the philosopher 
Hobbes, who was thirty-eight years old at the time of Bacon's 
death, and was in constant personal intercourse with him during 
the previous ten years. Hobbes's story, which Aubrey took down 
from his lips and incorporated in his life of Bacon (cf. Aubrey's 
Lives, vol. ii. part. ii. p. 602), runs as follows : ' The cause of 
his Lordship's death was trying an experiment. As he was taking 
an aire in a coach with Dr. Witherborne 'a Scotchman, Physician 
to the King) towards Highgate, snow lay on the ground, and it 


tion, of preserving food by means of cold storage. In 
performing the experiment he caught a chill and took 
refuge in the house of a neighbouring friend, the art- 
connoisseur, Lord Arundel, who happened to be from 
home. Bacon was sixty-five years old, and his constitu 
tion could bear no new strain. At Lord Arundel's 
house he died on the gth of April of the disease now 
known as bronchitis. He was buried at St. Michael's 
Church, St. Albans, where his tomb may still be visited. 
The monument represents him elaborately attired and 
seated in a contemplative attitude. It was set up by a 
loving disciple, Sir Thomas Meautys. A Latin inscrip- 

came into my Lord's thoughts, why flesh might not be preserved 
in snow as in salt. They were resolved they would try the experi 
ment presently. They alighted out of the coach, and went into a 
poore woman's house at the bottome of Highgate Hill, and bought 
a hen, and made the woman exenterate it, and then stuffed the 
bodie with snow, and my Lord did help to doe it himselfe. The 
snow so chilled him, that he immediately fell so extremely ill, that 
he could not returne to his lodgings (at Graye's Inne) but went to 
the Earl of Arundell's house at Highgate, where they putt him 
into a good bed warmed with a panne, but it was a damp bed that 
had not been layn in about a yeare before, which gave him such a 
cold that in 2 or 3 dayes he dyed of suffocation.' Bacon carried the 
frozen hen with him to Lord Arundel's house and lived long 
enough to assure himself that his experiment was successful. 
Lord Arundel happened to be absent from home on Bacon's 
arrival, and Bacon managed, before he understood the fatal char 
acter of his illness, to dictate a letter the last words which he is 
known to have uttered to his host explaining the situation. ' I 
was likely to have had the fortune,' the letter, began, 'of Caius 
Plinius the elder, who lost his life by trying an experiment about 
the burning of the mountain Vesuvius. For I was also desirous 
to try an experiment or two, touching the conservation and indura 
tion of bodies. As for the experiment itself, it succeeded excellently 
well.' ('A Collection of Letters made by Sr. Tobie Mathews, 
Kt., 1660,' p. 57.) 


tion, which was penned by another admirer, Sir" Henry 
Wotton, may be rendered in English thus : 

' Thus was wont to sit FRANCIS BACON, LORD 
VERULAM, VISCOUNT ST. ALBANS, (or to call him by 
his more illustrious titles) the light of the sciences, the 
standard of eloquence, who, after he had discovered all 
the secrets of natural and moral philosophy, fulfilled 
nature's law of dissolution, A.D. 1626, aged 66. To the 
memory of so eminent a man THOMAS MEAUTYS, a 
disciple in life, an admirer in death, set up this monu 

' For my name and memory,' Bacon wrote in his will, 
' I leave it to men's charitable speeches, and to foreign 
nations and the next ages.' These legatees 
have not proved themselves negligent of the 
trust that Bacon reposed in them ; yet, when 
his personal career is surveyed, it is impossible for 
man's charitable speeches or foreign nations or the 
next ages to apply to it the language of eulogy. An 
unparalleled faith in himself, a blind self-confidence, is 
the most striking feature of his personal character. It 
justified in his mind acts on his part which defied every 
law of morality. That characteristic may have been 
partly due to his early training. The self-righteous 
creed which his narrowly Puritan mother implanted in 
him was responsible for much. The Calvinistic doctrine 
of predestination and election gave him, unconsciously, 
at the outset, confidence in his eternal salvation, what 
ever his personal conduct in life. But, if this were the 
result of his mother's teaching, his father, who was 
immersed in the politics of the day, made him familiar 
as a boy with all the Machiavellian devices, the 
crooked tricks of policy and intrigue which infected 


the political society of Queen Elizabeth's court. While 
these two influences his mother's superstition and his 
father's crafty worldliness were playing on his recep 
tive mind, a third came from his own individuality. 
He grew convinced of the possession of exceptional 
intellectual power which, if properly applied, would 
revolutionise man's relations with nature and reveal 
to him her hidden secrets. As years advanced, he 
realised that material wealth and position were needful 
to him if he were to attain the goal of his intellectual 
His neglect ambition. With a moral sense weakened by 
of moral his early associations with Calvinism on the 
sanctions. one hand and with utilitarianism on the 
other, he was unable to recognise any justice in moral 
obstacles intervening between him and that material 
prosperity which was essential, in his belief, to the ful 
filment of his intellectual designs. The higher he 
advanced in the material world, the more independent 
he became of the conventional distinctions between 
right and wrong. His mighty fall teaches the useful 
lesson that intellectual genius, however commanding, 
never justifies breaches of those eternal moral laws 
which are binding on men of great mental endowments 
equally with men of moderate or small intellectual 

Nor in the practical affairs of life did Bacon have at 
command that ordinary faculty, that savot'r fairs, which 
His want ^ often to be met with in men of smaller 
ofsavoir capacity, and can alone ensure success or 
faire. prosperity. In money matters his careless 

ness was abnormal, even among men of genius. 
Whether his resources were small or great, his expendi 
ture was always in excess of them. He was through 


life in bondage to money-lenders, yet he never hesitated 
to increase his outlay and his indebtedness. He saw 
his servants robbing him, but never raised a word in 
protest. By a will which he drew up in the year before 
he died, he was munificent in gifts, not merely to 
friends, retainers, and the poor, but to public institu 
tions, which he hoped to render more efficient in public 
service. Yet when all his assets were realised, the 
amount was only sufficient to defray two-thirds of his 
debts, and none of his magnanimous bequests took 
effect. With his thoughts concentrated on his intel 
lectual ambitions, he neglected, too, the study of the 
men with whom he worked. Although human nature 
had revealed to him many of its secrets, and he could 
disclose them in literature with rare incisiveness, he 
failed to read character in the individual men with 
whom chance brought him into everyday association. 
He misunderstood Essex ; he misunderstood James i. ; 
he misunderstood Buckingam ; his wife and his servants 
deceived him. 

In the conduct of his affairs, as in the management 
of men, Bacon stands forth as a pitiable failure. It is 
only in his scientific and his literary achieve- 
ments that he is great, but there few have 'atness 
been greater. 

Bacon's mind was a typical product of the European 
Renaissance. His intellectual interests em- 
braced every topic ; his writings touched al- 
most every subject of intellectual study. To 
each he brought the same eager curiosity and efficient 


insight. He is the despair of the modern specialist 
He is historian, essayist, logician, legal writer, philo 
sophical speculator, writer on science in every branch. 

At heart Bacon was a scholar scorning the applause 
which the popular writer covets. It is curious to note 
His rever- tnat ne set a higher value on his skill as a 
ence for writer of Latin than on his skill as a writer of 
the Latin English. Latin he regarded as the language 
tongue. o f ^g i earne( j o f every nationality, and con 
sequently books written in Latin were addressed to his 
only fit audience, the learned society of the whole 
civilised globe. English writings, on the other hand, 
could alone appeal to the (in his day) comparatively few 
persons of intelligence who understood that tongue. 
Latin was for him the universal language. English 
books could never, he said, be citizens of the world. 

So convinced was he of the insularity of his own 
tongue, that at the end of his life he deplored that he 
His con- had wasted time in writing books in English, 
tempt for * He hoped all his works might be translated 
English. m t o Latin, so that they might live for pos 
terity. Miscalculation of his powers governed a large 
part of Bacon's life, and find signal illustration in this 
regret that he should have written in English rather 
than in Latin. For it is not to his Latin works, nor to 
the Latin translations of his English works, that he owes 
the mail part of his immortality. He lives as a spec 
ulator in philosophy, as one who sought a great intel 
lectual goal ; but he lives equally as a great master of 
the English tongue which he despised. 

For terseness and pithiness of expression there is 
nothing in English to match Bacon's style in the Essays. 
His reflections on human life which he embodied 


there, his comments on human nature, especially on 
human infirmities, owe most of their force to the stimu 
lating vigour which he breathed into Eng- The style 
lish words. No man has proved himself a of his 
greater master of the pregnant apophthegm in Essays. 
any language, not even in the French language, which 
far more readily lends itself to aphorism. 

Weighty wisdom, phrased with that point and brevity 
which only a master of style could command, is scattered 
through all the essays, and many sentences phrases 
have become proverbial. It is the essay ' Of from the 
Marriage and Single Life ' that begins : c He Essays. 
that hath wife and children hath given hostages to 
fortune ; for they are impediments to great enterprises 
either of virtue or mischief.' That ' Of Parents and 
Children ' has ' Children sweeten labours, but they make 
misfortunes more bitter ; they increase the cares of life, 
but they mitigate the remembrance of death.' Of 
' Building ' he made the prudent and witty remark : 
' Houses are built to live in and not to look on ; there 
fore let use be preferred before uniformity, except where 
both may be had. Leave goodly fabrics of houses for 
beauty only to the enchanted palaces of the poets who 
build them with small cost.' Equally notable are such 
sentences as these: 'A crowd is not company, and 
faces are but a gallery of pictures, and talk but a tinkling 
cymbal where there is no love.' On the scriptural 
proverb about riches making themselves wings, Bacon 
grafted the practical wisdom : ' Riches have wings and 
sometimes they fly away of themselves, sometimes they 
must be set flying to bring in more.' Equally penetrat 
ing are these aphoristic deliverances : ' Some books 
are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few 


to be chewed and digested' (Essay i., of 'Studies'). 
' A little philosophy inclineth a man's mind to atheism, 
but depth in philosophy bringeth man's mind about to 
religion' (Essay xvi., of 'Atheism'). Sometimes he 
uses very homely language with singular effect. ' Money 
is like muck not good except it be spread ' (Essay xv., 
of ' Seditions and Troubles '). Thus he summarised a 
warning which he elsewhere elaborately phrased, that it 
is an evil hour for a State when its treasure and money 
are gathered into a few hands. 

But Bacon's style is varied. The pithy terseness of 
his essays is not present in all his works. In addition 
to his terse mode of English expression, he 
kad at command a rich exuberance and 
floridity abounding in rhetorical ornament 
'and illustration. He professed indifference to mere 
questions of form in composition. But whatever his 
theoretical view of style, he was a singularly careful 
writer, and his philosophical English writings his 
Advancement of Learning especially are as notable for 
the largeness of their vocabulary, the richness of their 
illustration, and the rhythmical flow of their sentences 
as for their philosophic suggestiveness. 

All that Bacon wrote bore witness to his weighty and 
robust intellect, but his style was coloured not merely 
by intellectual strength, but by imaginative insight. So 
much imaginative power, indeed, underlay his majestic 
phraseology and his illuminating metaphors, that Shelley 
in his eloquent Defence of Poetry figuratively called him 
a poet.* It is only figuratively that Bacon could be 

* Shelley fancifully endeavours to identify poets and philosophers. 
'The distinctions,' he writes, 'between philosophers and poets 
have been anticipated. Plato was essentially a poet. . . . Lord 


called a poet. He is only a poet in the sense that every 
great thinker and observer of nature has a certain faculty 
of imagination. But his faculty of imagination is the 
thinker's faculty, which is mainly the fruit of intellect. 
The great poet's faculty of imagination, which is mainly 
the fruit of emotion, was denied Bacon. Poetry in its 
strict sense, the modulated harmony of verse, the 
emotional sympathy which seeks expression in lyric or 
drama, was out of his range. 

The writing of verse was probably the only branch 
of intellectual endeavour which was beyond Bacon's 

grasp. He was ambitious to try his hand at 

r . . . J His verse, 

every literary exercise. At times he tried to 

turn a stanza. The results are unworthy of notice. 
Bacon's acknowledged attempts at formal poetry are 
uncouth and lumbering ; they attest congenital unfitness 
for that mode of expression. Strange arguments have 
indeed been adduced to credit Bacon with those 
supreme embodiments of all poetic excellence Shake 
speare's plays. The number of works that Bacon 
claimed to have penned, when combined with the 
occupations of his professional career, so filled every 
nook and cranny of his adult time, that on no showing 
was leisure available for the conquest of vast fields of 
poetry and drama. But whoever harbours the delusion 
that Bacon was responsible for anything that came from 
Shakespeare's pen, should examine Bacon's versified 
paraphrase of Certaine Psalmes which he published in a 

Bacon was a poet. His language has a sweet and majestic rhythm, 
which satisfies the sense no less than the almost superhuman wisdom 
of his philosophy satisfies the intellect. . . . Shakespeare, Dante, 
and Milton ... are philosophers of the very loftiest power.' 
Defence of Poetry, ed. A. S. Cook, pp. 9-10. 


volume the year before he died. He dedicated the book 
to the poet George Herbert, in terms which attest, 
despite some conventional self-depreciation, the store 
he set by this poor experiment. The work represents 
the whole of the extant metrical efforts which came, 
without possibility of dispute, from Bacon's pen. If the 
reader of that volume be not promptly disabused of the 
heresy that any Shakespearean touch is discernible , in 
the clumsy and crude doggerel, he deserves to be con 
demned to pass the rest of his days with no other 
literary company to minister to his literary cravings than 
this ' Translation of Certaine Psalmes into English 
Verse, by the Right Honourable Francis, Lo. Verulam, 
Viscount St. Alban.'* 

* Despite his incapacity for verse Bacon, like many smaller men, 
seems to have assiduously courted the muse in private. Writing to 
a poetic friend, Sir John Davies, in 1603, he numbers himself 
among ' concealed poets,' and the gossiping biographer, Aubrey, 
applies to him the same designation. Apart from his verse render 
ing of the psalms, he has only been credited on any sane grounds 
with two pieces of verse, and to one of these he has certainly no 
title. The moralising jingle, beginning ' The man of life upright,' 
figures in many seventeenth-century manuscript miscellanies of 
verse as 'Verses made by Mr. Francis Bacon,' but its true author 
was Thomas Campion (cf. Poems, ed. A. II. Bullen, p. 20). The 
other poetic performance assigned to Bacon is variously called 
' The World,' ' The Bubble,' and ' On Man's Mortality.' It opens 
with the lines, 

' The world's a bubble, and the life of man 
Less than a span,' 

and was first printed after Bacon's death in 1629 in Thomas 
Farnaby's Florilegium Epigrammaticum Grtecorum, a Latin trans 
lation of selections from the Greek Anthology. The poem in 
question is the only English verse in Farnaby's book, and is 
ascribed by him on hazy grounds to ' Lord Verulam.' It is a 



It is Bacon's scientific or philosophic labour which 
forms the apex of his history. Although he wrote many 
scattered treatises which dealt in detail with His 
scientific phenomena, Bacon's scientific and philosophic 
philosophic aims can best be deduced from works, 
his two great works, the Advancement of Learning, 
which was written in English, and the Novum Organum, 
which was written in Latin. The first, which was 
greatly amplified in a Latin paraphrase (at least one- 
third being new matter) called De Augmentis Scientiarum, 
is a summary survey in English of all knowledge. The 
second work, the Latin Novum Organum, is a fragment 
of Bacon's full exposition of his scientific system ; it 
is the only part of it that he completed, and mainly 
describes his inductive method of scientific investigation. 

Bacon's attitude to science rests on the convictions 
that man's true function in life is to act as the interpreter 

rendering of the epigram in the Palatine Anthology, x. 359, which 
is sometimes assigned to Posidippus and sometimes to Crates 
(cf. Mackail's Greek Anthology, sect. xii. No. xxxix. p. 278). 
The English lines, the authorship of which remains uncertain, 
paraphrase the Greek freely and effectively, but whoever may be 
their author, they cannot be ranked among original compositions. 
A copy was found among Sir Henry Wotton's papers, and printed 
in the Reliquia Wottoniana (1651) above the signature 'Ignoto.' 
They were also put to the credit, in early manuscript copies, of 
Donne, of ' Henry Harrington,' and of ' R. W.' The Greek 
epigram, it is interesting to note, was a favourite with Elizabethan 
versifiers. English renderings are extant by Nicolas Grimald (in 
Tottel's Songes and Sonnettes, ed. Arber, p. 109), by Puttenham 
(in Arte of English Poesic, ed. Arber, p. 214), by Sir John 
Beaumont, and others. 


of nature ; that truth cannot be derived from authority, 
but from man's experience and experiments ; that know- 
His atti- ledge is the fruit of experience and experi- 
tude to raent. Bacon's philosophic writings have 
science. f or their main object the establishment of a 
trustworthy system whereby nature may be interpreted by 
man, and brought into his service, whereby the study of 
natural science may be set on a firm and fruitful foundation. 

The first aim was to overthrow the deductive methods 
of Aristotle and mediaeval schoolmen, by virtue of which 
Hi 9 oppo- it na d b geri customary before Bacon's time to 
sition to seek to prove preconceived theories without 
Aristotle. reference to actual fact or experience. The 
formal logic of the syllogism was in Bacon's eyes barren 
verbiage. By such means elaborate conclusions were 
reached, which were never tested by observation and 
experiment, although if they were so tested, they would 
be summarily confuted. The deductive conclusion that 
bodies fall to the ground at a velocity proportioned to 
their weight is one of the simple fallacies which were 
universally accepted before observation and experiment 
were summoned to test its truth and brought the law of 
gravitation into being. 

Bacon ranks as the English champion of the method 

of inductive reasoning. It was well known to earlier 

logicians that an enumeration of phenomena 

i diction offered material for generalisation, but Bacon's 

predecessors were content with a simple and 

uncritical enumeration of such facts as happened to 

come under their notice, and their mode of generalising 

was valueless and futile, because the foundations were 

unsound as often as they were sound. Bacon argued 

that reports of isolated facts were to be accumulatedj 


and were then to be systematically tested by means of 
observation and experiment. Phenomena were to be 
carefully selected and arranged. There were to be 
eliminations and rejections of evidence. From the 
assemblage and codification of tested facts alone were 
conclusions to be drawn. 

On man's inability, without careful training to dis 
tinguish between fact and fiction, Bacon laid especial 
stress. Man's powers were rarely in a con- Man's 
dition to report on phenomena profitably or mental 
faithfully. Congenital prejudice was first to prejudices, 
be allowed for and counteracted. Man was liable to 
misapprehensions of what came within the range of his 
observation, owing to inadequate control of the senses 
and emotions. 

To an analysis of the main defects in the operation of 
the human intellect in its search after truth Bacon 
devoted much attention. The mind of man, Bacon 
pointed out, was haunted by phantoms, and exorcism of 
these phantoms was needful before reason was secure in 
her dominion of the mind. Bacon called the phantoms 
of th^ mind idols idola, from the Greek word e'SwAa, 
phantoms or images. Idols or idola were, in Bacon's 
terminology, the antitheses of ideas, the sound fruit of 
thought. Bacon finally reduced the idols or phantoms 
which infested man's mind to four classes idols of the 
tribe, the cave, the market-place, and the theatre.* 

* Sections xxxviii.-lxviii. of the Novum Organum expound 
Bacon's ' doctrine of the idols ' in its final shape. A first imper 
fect draft of the doctrine appears in the Advancement of Learning 
(Bk. ii.), and is expanded in the De Augmentis and in the Latin 
tracts Valerius Terminus and Partis Secunda Delineatio, but the 
Novum Organum is the locus classicus for the exposition of the 


Idols of the tribe are inherent habits of mind common 
to all the human tribe, such as the tendency to put 
The more faith in one affirmative instance of 

doctrine success than in any number of negative 
of idols. instances of failure. An extraordinary cure 
is effected by means of some drug, and few people stop 
to inquire how often the drug has failed, or whether the 
cure was due to some cause other than the administra 
tion of this particular drug. Idols of the cave (a con 
ception which is borrowed from Plato's Republic) are 
the prejudices of the individual person when he is im 
prisoned in the cave of his own idiosyncrasy. One 
man's natural habit inclines to exaggeration of statement, 
while another man's habit inclines to under-estimation 
of the importance of what he sees or hears. The third 
idol of the market-place is the disposition to become 
the slave of phrases and words which are constantly 
heard in ordinary traffic, the market-place of life. Mere 
words or phrases, when echoed in the market-place of 
life, apart from the circumstances that give them their 
full significance, breed irrational misconception. Words 
like Free-trade or Protection, to take a modern example, 
fall within the scope of Bacon's doctrine; they easily 
become verbal fetishes, and the things of which they are 
mere market-place token- are left out of account Idols 
of the theatre mean those tendencies on the part of 
masses of men and women to put faith in everything 
that is said very dogmatically, as actors are wont to speak 
from the stage of the theatre. Philosophies or religions, 
which rest on specious dogmas, have the character, in 
Bacon's judgment, of stage-plays which delude an ignorant 
audience into accepting the artificial, unreal scene for 
nature, by virtue of over-emphasised speech and action. 


Man's vision must be purged from prejudices, whether 
they are inherited or spring from environment, before he 
can fully grasp the truth. The dry light of The dry 
reason is the only illuminant which permits light of 
man to see clearly phenomena as they are ; reason, 
only when idols are dispersed does the dry light burn 
with effectual fire. 


Bacon claimed that all knowledge lay within the scope 
of man's enfranchised mind. The inductive system was 
to arrive ultimately at the cause, not only of The lim j t _ 
scientific facts and conditions, but of moral, i es s possi- 
political, and spiritual facts and conditions, bilities of 
He refused to belr'sve that any limits were man ' s 
set beyond which numan intellect when clari- now ge- 
fied and purified could not penetrate. He argued that, 
however far we may think we have advanced in know 
ledge or science, there is always more beyond, and that 
the tracts lying beyond our present gaze will in due 
course of time come within the range of a purified in 
tellectual vision. There were no bounds to what human 
thought might accomplish. To other children of the 
Renaissance the same sanguine faith had come, but 
none gave such emphatic voice to it as Bacon. 

But Bacon did not go far along the road that he had 
marked out for himself. His great system of knowledge 
was never completed. He was always look- The frag . 
ing forward to the time when, having ex- mentary 
hausted his study of physics, he should character 
proceed to the study of metaphysics the ofhls work ' 
things above physics, spiritual things but metaphysics 


never came within his view, nor did he, to speak truth, 
do much more than touch the fringe of physical investi 
gation. He failed to keep himself abreast of the 
. . physical knowledge of his day, and some of 

ranee of his guesses at scientific truth strike the 
contem- modern reader as childish. He knew noth- 
porary i n g of Harvey's discovery of the circulation 
advances Q f fa e blood, which that great physician 
enunciated in his lectures to his students 
fully ten years before Bacon died. He knew nothing 
of Napier's invention of logarithms, nor of Kepler's 
mathematical calculations, which set the science of 
astronomy on a just footing. He ignored the researches 
of his own fellow-countryman, William Gilbert, in the 
new science of the magnet. Nor, apparently, was he 
acquainted with the Vast series of scientific discoveries, 
including the thermometer and the telescope, which 
were due to the genius of the greatest of his scientific 
contemporaries, Galileo. 

It is doubtful whether Bacon, despite his intuitive 
grasp of scientific principle, had any genuine aptitude 
for the practical work of scientific research. News of 
Galileo's discovery of Jupiter's satellites reached him, 
but he did not apprehend its significance. Galileo's 
final confirmation of the Copernican system of as 
tronomy, which proved that the earth went round the 
t sun, never obtained Bacon's recognition. He adhered 
to the geocentric theory of Ptolemy, which was long 
accepted universally, that the earth was the fixed centre 
of the universe, round which sun and planets revolved. 
He even disrespectfully referred to those who insisted 
on the earth's movement round the sun as ' these mad 
carmen which drive the earth about,' 


Vet Bacon's spacious intuition enabled him to strike 
out a few shrewd scientific observations that anticipated 
researches of the future. He described heat His 
as mode of motion, and light as requiring own dis- 
time for its transmission. Of the atomic coveries. 
theory of matter he had, too, a shadowy glimpse. He 
even vaguely suggested somevaluable mechanical devices 
which are now in vogue. In a description of instru 
ments for the transference of sound, he foreshadowed 
the invention of speaking-tubes and telephones ; and he 
died, as we have seen, in an endeavour to test a per 
fectly accurate theory of refrigeration. 

His greatness in the history of science does not, how 
ever, consist in the details of his scientific study, nor in 
his applications of science to practical life, j^is p i ace 
nor in his personal aptitude for scientific in the 
research, but rather in the impetus which history of 
his advocacy of inductive and experimental science - 
methods gave to future scientific investigation. As he 
himself said, he rang the bell which called the other 
wits together. He first indicated the practical efficiency 
of scientific induction, and although succeeding experi 
menters in science may have been barely conscious of 
their indebtedness to him, yet their work owes its value 
to the logical method which he brought into vogue. 


Although he failed to appreciate the value of the 
scientific investigations of his contemporaries, Bacon 
preached with enthusiasm the crying need of practical 


research if his prophecy of the future of science were 
to be realised. His mind frequently contemplated :he 
The endow- organisation, the endowment and equipment 
ment of of research in every branch of science, theo- 
research. retical or practical. A great palace of inven 
tion, a great temple of science, was one of his dreams. 
In later life he amused himself by describing, in fanciful 
language, what form such a palace might take in imagin 
ary conditions. The sketch is one of the most charm 
ing of his writings. He called it The New Atlantis. It 
was never finished, and the fragment was not published 
in his lifetime. 

Bacon intended the work to fulfil two objects. First 
he sought to describe an imaginary college, which should 

be instituted for the purpose of interpreting 
The New , c -, j 

Atlantis natur e, ar >d f producing great and marvel 
lous works for the benefit of men. In the 
second place, he proposed to frame an ideal body of 
laws for a commonwealth. The second part was not 
begun. The only portion of the treatise that exists 
deals, after the manner of a work of fiction, with an 
ideal endowment of scientific research. It shows Bacon 
to advantage as a writer of orderly and dignified English, 
and embodies, in a short compass, as many of Bacon's 
personal convictions and ideals as any of his composi 

In the history of the English Renaissance, the Neiv 
The Atlantis fills at the same time an important 

epilogue to place. It is in a sense the epilogue of the 
the Renais- drama. It is the latest pronouncement in the 
sance in endeavour of the Renaissance to realise per- 
ng an ' fection in human affairs. The cry for the re 
generation of the race found voice for the first time in 


England under the spell of the Renaissance in More's 
Utopia. More pleaded for the recognition of equal 
social rights for all reasoning men. Bacon's New At 
lantis was a sequel to More's Utopia, but it sharply 
contrasted with it in conception. Since More wrote the 
Utopia, time had taught thinkers of the Renaissance 
to believe that man's ultimate regeneration and per 
fectibility depended primarily not on reform of laws of 
property or on social revolution, but on the progress of 
science and the regulation of human life by the scientfic 
spirit. Bacon's New Atlantis proclaimed with almost 
romantic enthusiasm that scientific method alone was 
the ladder by which man was to ascend to perfect 

The opening page of Bacon's scientific romance intro 
duces us abruptly to a boatload of mariners on their 
voyage from Peru by the South Pacific Sea ^he story 
to China and Japan. Storms delay them, O f the New 
and their food-supplies fail, but happily they Atlantis 
reach land, the existence of which they had Ut P ia - 
not suspected. The inhabitants, after careful inquiry, 
permit the castaways to disembark. The land proves 
to be the island of Ben Salem, to which the Christian 
religion had been divinely revealed at a -very early period. 
The islanders practise all civic virtues, especially the 
virtue of hospitality. The visitors are royally enter 
tained. It is curious to note that Bacon, zealous for 
efficiency of organisation in small things as in great, 
points out how the servants refused with amused con 
tempt the offer of gifts of money from the strange 
travellers on whom they were directed to wait; the 
servants deemed it (such. was their disinterested and 
virtuous faith in logic) dishonour to be twice paid for 


their labours by their employers and by their employers' 

The customs of the people of this unknown island are 
charmingly described, and ultimately the travellers are 
The im- introduced to the chief and predominating 
aginary feature of the island, a great college of 
college of science, founded by an ancient ruler, and 
science. called Salomon's house ' the noblest founda 
tion that ever was upon the earth, and the lantern of 
this kingdom.' 

The rest of the work describes the constitution of this 
great foundation for ' the finding out the true nature of 
The work a U things.' The end of this college of science 
of the is to reach 'the knowledge of causes, and 

college. secret motions of things, and the enlarging 
of the bounds of human empire to the effecting of all 
things possible.' That is the motto of the great temple. 
There is much that is fantastic in the sequel, but it 
illustrates Bacon's dearest aspirations, and his anticipa 
tions of what science might, if effort were fittingly 
organised, ultimately accomplish. There are caves sunk 
six hundred fathoms deep, in which ' refrigerations and 
conservations of bodies ' are effected, and new metals 
artificially contrived.' There are turrets half a mile high 
in one case erected on a mountain three miles high' 
for purposes of meteorological observation. There is 
a chamber of health, where the atmosphere is modulated 
artificially with a view to adapting it to cure various 
diseases. In the gardens, new flowers and fruits are 
brought into being by dint of grafting and inoculation. 
Vivisection is practised on beasts and birds, so that 
opportunities may be at hand to test the effects of poison 
and new operations in surgery, and to widen the know* 


ledge of physiology; while breeding experiments pro 
duce new and useful species of animals. Optics in all 
its branches is studied practically in the laboratories, 
called perspective houses. Finally, there is an establish 
ment where tricks that deceive the senses, like feats 
of juggling, or spiritualistic manifestations, or ghostly 
apparitions, are practised to the highest perfection, and 
then explained to serious students who go out into the 
world, and by their instruction prevent the simple- 
minded from being deceived by quacks and impostors. 

The leading men of the island, the aristocracy, con 
sist of a great hierarchy of fellows, or endowed students, 
of the House of Science, Each rank exer- The Fellows 
cises different functions, Some, called ' the of the 
merchants of light,' travel to collect informa- college, 
tion. Others at home compile knowledge from books. 
Others codify the experiments of their colleagues. Some 
of the students devote themselves to applying the 
discoveries of theoretical science to mechanical inven 
tions. Others extract, through the general work of the 
college, philosophic generalisations. Religion sheds its 
light on the foundation ; and the father, or chief ruler, 
of the house is represented as abounding in pious 
fervour. All the students are, indeed, described as 
philanthropists seeking inspiration from God. Respect 
for great discoverers of new truths or of new applications 
of science was one of the principles of Bacon's great 
scheme of a Temple of Science. For every invention of 
value a statue to the inventor was at once erected in the 
House, and a liberal and honourable reward was given 

The scheme of this great imaginary institution is 
Bacon's final message to mankind. His college of 


science was a design, he said, fit for a mighty prince to 
execute. He felt that if such a design had been executed 
, in his day, he himself would have had the 
a( Jrati S opportunity which he lacked of separating 
himself from sordid and sophisticated society, 
from evil temptations which he had not the moral cour 
age to resist, of realising his youthful ambition. History 
would then have known him exclusively as a benefactor 
of the human race, a priest of science, who consecrated 
every moment of his life to searching into the secrets of 
nature for the benefit of his fellow-men. 

Bacon's idea has not yet been realised. Whether a 
temple of science, on the scale that Bacon imagined it, 
Prospects w ^ ever come mto existence remains to be 
of realising seen.* At present the portents, I fear, are 
Bacon's not favourable for its emergence in this 
ideal. country. It seems more likely to come to 

birth in Germany or in America first. For both in Ger 
many and in America things of the mind such as Bacon 
worshipped receive a public consideration which is 
denied them here. Nothing here is comparable with 
the widespread eagerness in the United States among 
young men and women to enjoy the benefit of academic 
scientific training. Rich and poor alike share the 
passion for enlightenment. The sacrifices, the penuri 
ous living which poor students cheerfully face in order 
to complete their University course, form heroic chapters 
in the nation's life. And most important in the present 
connection is it to note the munificent readiness with 
which the legislatures of many States of America, and 

* The passage which follows was interpolated in a repetition 
of this lecture at the Working Men's College in London at the 
opening of the Session on 3rd October 1003. 


more especially rich individual citizens of America, 
respond, like the founder of Bacon's New Atlantis, to 
demands made on their resources to supply the people 
with fit endowment and equipment of research. Nothing 
in the current experience of our country enables us to 
realise, even dimly, the scale on which wealth in America 
is appropriated to Bacon's great cause the advance 
ment of learning. 

This is a melancholy reflection. It suggests a descent 
from the high level of aspiration and endeavour which 
England maintained in the era of the Renaissance and 
after. England nurtured not merely Bacon, who stimu 
lated scientific research through all the world ; she has 
produced a long succession of scientific investigators 
' merchants of light ' one might call them in Bacon's 
fine phrase who, working in Bacon's spirit, enjoy the 
honours of universal recognition. She has moreover 
produced in the past a long line of benefactors who 
paid willing tribute to learning, who, in the cause of 
research, fostered educational institutions, libraries, and 
laboratories. England's prestige owes very much to the 
scientific triumphs won by men who were Bacon's dis 
ciples in methods of research, and who were indebted 
to ancient educational benefactions. 

Bacon was well alive to the means whereby a nation's 
intellectual prestige could best be sustained. In this 
illuminating tractate of his, The New Atlantis, he argued 
in effect that it was incumbent on a nation to apply a 
substantial part of its material resources to the equip 
ment of scientific work and exploration a substantial 
part of its resources which should grow greater and 
greater with the progress of time and of population, with 
the increasing complexity of knowledge. Such applica- 


tion of material resources, in Bacon's view, was the 
surest guarantee of national glory and prosperity. This 
is perhaps at the moment the most serious lesson that 
Bacon's writings teach us, and patriotic pride in his 
achievement ought to forbid our neglect of his counsel, 
ought to forbid our watching supinely the superior, the 
better sustained efforts of foreign nations to reach his 


"... Princes sit like stars about his throne, 
And he the sun for them to reverence. 
None that beheld him, but like lesser lights 
Did vail their crowns to his supremacy.' 

Pericles, II. iii. 39-42. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY. The main facts are recorded in the 
present writer's Life of Shakespeare, which was published 
in 1898. The documentary information respecting Shake 
speare's career is collected in Halliwell Phillipps's Out 
lines of the Life of Shakespeare, 2 vols., tenth Edition, 
1898. The two volumes published by the New Shakspere 
Society : Shakspere^ s Centurie of Prayse ; being materials 
for a history of opinion on Shaksfere and his works, A,D, 
1591-1693 (edited by C. M. Ingleby, and Lucy Toulmin 
Smith, 1879), and Some 300 Fresh Allusions to Shakspere 
from 1594 to 1694 A.D. (edited by F. J. Furnivall, 1886), 
bear useful testimony to the persistence of the accepted 

THE obscurity with which Shakespeare's biography has 
been long credited is greatly exaggerated. The mere 
biographical information accessible is far The docu- 
more definite and more abundant than that mentary 
concerning any other dramatist of the day. material. 
In the case of no contemporary dramatist are the precise 
biographical dates and details dates of baptism and 


burial, circumstances of marriage, circumstances of 
children, the private pecuniary transactions of his career, 
the means of determining the years in which his various 
literary works were planned and produced equally 
numerous or based on equally firm documentary foun 

Shakespeare's father, John Shakespeare, was a dealer 
in agricultural produce at Stratford-on-Avon, a prosper 
ous country town in the heart of England. 
anTbirtff J onn Shakespeare was himself son of a small 
farmer residing in the neighbouring Warwick 
shire village of Snitterfield. The family was of yeoman 
stock. Shakespeare's mother, Mary Arden, was also 
daughter of a local farmer, who enjoyed somewhat 
greater wealth and social standing than the poet's father 
and his kindred. William Shakespeare, the eldest child 
that survived infancy, was baptized in the parish church 
of Stratford-on-Avon on 26th April 1564, and the entry 
may still be read there in the parish registers. 

The more closely one studies Shakespeare's career, 
the plainer it becomes that his experiences and fortunes 

were very similar to those of many who came 
Education. . ,, ... i_- j u- 

m adult years to follow in his day his own 

profession. Sprung from yeoman stock, of a family 
moderately supplied with the world's needs, he had the 
normal opportunities of education which the Grammar 
School of the town of his birth could supply. Eliza 
bethan Grammar Schools gave boys of humble birth 
a sound literary education. Latin was the chief subject 
of their study. The boys talked Latin with their master 
in simple dialogue ; they translated it into English ; they 
wrote compositions in it. A boy with a native bent for 
literature was certain to have his interest stimulated if 



he went to an Elizabethan Grammar School, and mas 
tered the Latin curriculum. Few of Shakespeare's 
schoolfellows at Stratford, whatever their adult fortunes, 
lost in later life familiarity with the Latin which they had 
acquired at school. Friends and neighbours of Shake 
speare at Stratford, who were educated with him at the 
Grammar School and passed their days as grocers or 
butchers in the town, were in the habit of corresponding 
with one another in copious and fluent Latin. 

Of Shakespeare's great literary contemporaries few 
began life in a higher social position or with better 
opportunities of education than he. Mar- The tra j n _ 
lowe, who was the first writer of literary blank i ng O f 
verse in England, and was Shakespeare's literary 
tutor in artistic tragedy, was son of a shoe- contem- 
maker, and was educated at the King's por 
Grammar School of Canterbury. Spenser, the poet of 
the Faerie Queene, was son of an impecunious London 
tailor, and began writing poetry after passing through 
the Merchant Taylors' School. These schools were of 
the same type as the school of Stratford-on-Avon ; they 
provided an identical course of study. 

While Shakespeare was a schoolboy, his father was 
a prosperous tradesman, holding the highest civic office 
in the little town of Stratford. Unfortunately, 
when the eldest son William was little more train j ngi 
than fourteen, the father fell into pecuniary 
embarrassment, and the boy was withdrawn from school 
before his course of study was complete. He was 
deprived of the opportunity of continuing his education 
at a university; his further studies he had to pursue 
unaided. Nothing peculiar to his experience is to be 
detected in the fact that his pursuit of knowledge went 


steadily forward after he left school. Many men of the 
day, whose education suffered similar abbreviation, be 
came not merely men of wide reading, but men of 
immense learning. Ben Jonson, whose erudition in the 
Latin and Greek classics has for range and insight very 
rarely been equalled in England, was, according to his 
own account, taken from school and put as a lad to the 
trade of bricklaying the least literary of all trades. Sir 
Walter Ralegh had a very irregular training in youth ; 
he left Oxford soon after joining the university, without 
submitting to regular discipline there ; yet, after a career 
of great activity in all departments of human effort, he 
wrote his History of the World, a formidable compen 
dium of learned and recondite research. Other great 
writers of the day owed little or nothing to academic 
teaching ; their wide reading was the fruit of a natural 
taste ; it was under no teacher's control ; it was carried 
forward at the same time as they engaged in other 
employment. Shakespeare, owing to his interrupted 
education, was never a trained scholar ; he had defects 
of knowledge which were impossible in a trained scholar, 
but he was clearly an omnivorous reader from youth till 
the end of his days ; he was a wider reader than most 
of those who owed deeper debts to schools or colleges. 


Shakespeare's father intended that he should assist 
Experi- him in his own multifarious business of 
ences of glover, butcher, and the rest. But this occu- 
youth. pation was uncongenial to the young man, and 

he successfully escaped from it. He developed early. 


At eighteen he married hastily, to the not unnatural 
annoyance of his parents. Very soon afterwards his 
genius taught him that he required a larger scope for its 
development than the narrow associations of a domestic 
hearth in a little country town could afford him. At 
twenty-two, like hundreds of other young Englishmen 
of ability, of ambition, and of high spirits, he set his face 
towards the capital city of the country, towards London, 
where he found his goal. 

The drama was in its infancy. The first theatre built 
in England was not a dozen years old when Shakespeare 
arrived in the metropolis. The theatre was 

a new institution in the social life of Shake- T he mfant 

, . _ ,. , drama, 

speares youth. English drama was an 

innovation ; it was one of the latest fruits of the Re 
naissance in England, of the commingling of the new 
study of classical drama with the new expansion of in 
tellectual power and outlook. A love of mimicry is 
inherent in men, and the Middle Ages gratified it by 
their Miracle Plays, which developed into Moralities, 
and Interludes. In the middle of the sixteenth century 
Latin and Greek plays were crudely imitated in English. 
But of poetic, literary, romantic, intellectual drama, 
England knew practically nothing until Shakespeare 
was of age. The land was just discovered, and its ex 
ploration was awaiting a leader of men, a master mind. 
There is nothing difficult or inexplicable in Shake 
speare's association with the theatre. It should always 
be borne in mind that his conscious aims His associ- 
and ambitions were those of other men of ation with 
literary aspirations in this stirring epoch. the theatre. 
The difference between the results of his endeavours 
and those of his fellows was due to the magic and in- 


voluntary working of genius, which, since the birth of 
time, has exercised as large a charter as the wind, to 
blow on whom it pleases. Speculation or debate as to 
why genius bestowed its fullest inspiration on Shake 
speare, this youth of Stratford-on-Avon, is as futile a 
speculation as debate about why he was born into the 
world with a head on his shoulders at all instead of, say, 
a block of stone. It is enough for prudent men and 
women to acknowledge the obvious fact that genius in 
an era of infinite intellectual energy endowed Shake 
speare, the Stratford-on-Avon boy, with its richest gifts. 
A very . small acquaintance with the literary history of 
the world, and the manner in which genius habitually 
plays its part there, will show the folly of cherishing 
astonishment that Shakespeare, of Stratford-on-Avon, 
rather than one more nobly born, or more academically 
trained, should, in an age so rich in intellectual and 
poetic impulse, have been chosen for the glorious 

In London, Shakespeare's work was mainly done. 
There his reputation and fortune were achieved. But 
Hisassoci- his London career opened under many dis- 
ation with advantages. A young man of twenty-two, 
London. burdened with a wife and three children, he 
had left his home in his little native town about 1586 
to seek his fortune in the great city. Without friends, 
and without money, he had, like many another stage- 
struck youth, set his heart on a two-fold quest. He 
would become an actor in the metropolis, and would 
write the plays in which he should act. Fortune did 
not at first conspicuously favour him; he sought and 
won the menial office of call-boy in a London play 
house, and was only after some delay promoted to 


humble duties on the stage itself. But no sooner had 
his foot touched the lowest rung of the theatrical ladder, 
than he felt intuitively that the topmost rung was within 
his reach. He tried his hand on the revision of an old 
play in the theatrical repertory, a play which was about 
to be revived. The manager was not slow to recognise 
the gift for dramatic writing. 


Shakespeare's period of probation was not short. He 
did not leap at a bound to fame and fortune. Neither 
came in sight until he had worked for seven The period 
or eight years in obscurity and hardship, ofproba- 
During these years he accumulated know- tion - 
ledge in very varied fields of study and experience. 
Rapid power of intuition characterised many another 
great writer of the day, but none possessed it in the 
same degree as himself. Shakespeare's biographers 
have sometimes failed to make adequate allowance for 
his power of acquiring information with almost the 
rapidity of a lightning flash, and they have ignored al 
together the circumstance that to some extent his literary 
contemporaries shared this power with him. The habit 
of viewing Shakespeare in isolation has given birth to 
many misconceptions. 

The assumption of Shakespeare's personal association 
in early days with the profession of the law is a good 

illustration of the sort of misunderstanding 

. . , r ou i Use of law 

which has corrupted accounts of Shake- terms> 

speare's career. None can question the fact 

of Shakespeare's frequent use of law terms. But the 


theory that during his early life in London he practised 
law in one or other professional capacity becomes per 
fectly superfluous as soon as his knowledge of law is 
compared with that of other Elizabethan poets, and 
its intuitive, rather than professional, character appre 

It is true that Shakespeare employs a long series of 
law terms with accuracy and is in the habit of using 
legal metaphors. But the careful inquirer will also per 
ceive that instances of ' bad law ' or unsound interpreta 
tion of legal principles are almost as numerous in 
Shakespeare's work as instances of ' good law ' or right 
interpretation of legal principles. On that aspect of the 
problem writers are as a rule tantalisingly silent. 

If we are content to keep Shakespeare apart from his 
contemporaries, or to judge him exclusively by the prac 
tice of imaginative writers of recent times, the circum 
stance that he often borrows metaphors or terminology 
from the law may well appear to justify the notion that 
personal experience of the profession is the best explana 
tion of his practice. But the problem assumes a 
The habit very different aspect when it is perceived 
of contern- that Shakespeare's fellow-writers, Ben Jonson 
poraries. an< j Spenser, Massinger and Webster, em 
ployed law terms with no less frequency and facility 
than he. It can be stated with the utmost confidence 
that none of these men engaged in the legal profession. 
Spenser's Faerie Queene seems the least likely place 
wherein to study Elizabethan law. But Spenser in his 
Spenser's romantic epic is even more generous than 
use of law Shakespeare in his playsin technical references 
terms. t o i e g a i procedure. Take such passages as 

the following. The first forms a technical commentary 


on the somewhat obscure law of 'alluvion,' with which 
Shakespeare shows no sign of acquaintance : 

' For that a waif, the which by fortune came 
Upon your seas, he claim'd as property : 
And yet nor his, nor his in equity, 
But yours the waif by high prerogative. 
Therefore I humbly crave your Majesty 
It to replevie, and my son reprieve, 
So shall you by one gift save all us three alive.' * 

In the second passage a definite form of legal practice 
is fully and accurately described : 

' Fair Mirabella was her name, whereby 
Of all those crimes she there indicted was : 
All which when Cupid heard, he by and by, 
In great displeasure willed a Capias 
Should issue forth t'attach that scornful lass. 
The warrant straight was made, and there withal 
A Bailiff-errant forth in post did pass, 
Whom they by name there Portamore did call ; 
He which doth summon lovers to love's judgment hall. 
The damsel was attached, and shortly brought 
Unto the bar whereas she was arraigned ; 
But she thereto nould plead, nor answer aught 
Even for stubborn pride which her restrained. 
So judgment passed, as is by law ordained 
In cases like.'t 

It will be noticed by readers of these quotations that 
Spenser makes free with strangely recondite Spenser's 
technical terms. The verb ' replevie/ in the recondite 
first quotation means 'to enter on disputed law 
property, after giving security to test at law P hrases - 
the question of rightful ownership;' the technicality 

* Faerie Qtteene, Bk. IV., canto xii., stanza xxxi. 

t Faerit Queens^ Bk. vi., canto vii., stanzas xxxv, and xxxvi. 


is to modern ears altogether out of harmony with the 
language of the Muses, and is rarely to be matched 
in Shakespeare. 

Such examples could be multiplied almost indefinitely 

from Spenser, Ben Jonson, and scores of 

speare's *heir contemporaries. The questions 'Was 

conformity Spenser a lawyer ? ' or ' Was Ben Jonson a 

with pre- lawyer ? ' have as far as my biographical 

vailmg studies go, not yet been raised. Were they 

raised, they could be summarily answered in 

the negative. 

No peculiar biographical significance can attach there 
fore, apart from positive evidence no tittle of : which 
exists, to Shakespeare's legal phraseology. Social inter 
course between men of letters and lawyers was excep 
tionally active in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. 
In view of the sensitiveness to environment, in view of 
the mental receptivity of all great writers of the day, it 
becomes unnecessary to assign to any more special 
causes the prevailing predilection for legal language in 
contemporary literature. The frequency with which 
law terms are employed by Shakespeare's contempo 
raries, who may justly be denied all practical experience 
of the profession of law, confutes the conclusion that 
Shakespeare, becauses he uses law terms, was at the out 
set of'his career in London a practising lawyer or lawyer's 
clerk. The only just conclusion to be drawn by Shake 
speare's biographer from his employment of law terms is 
that the great dramatist in this feature, as in numerous 
other features, of his work was merely proving the readi 
ness with which he identified himself with the popular 
literary habits of his day. All Shakespeare's mental 
energy, it may safely be premised, was absorbed through- 


out his London career by his dramatic ambition. He 
had no time to make acquaintance at first hand with the 
technical procedure of another profession. 


It was not probably till 1591, when he was twenty- 
seven, that Shakespeare's earliest original play, Love's 
Labour's Lost, was performed. It showed shake- 
the hand J of a beginner ; it abounded in speare's 
trivial witticisms. But above all there shone earl y P la y s - 
out clearly and unmistakably the dramatic and poetic 
fire, the humorous outlook on life, the insight into 
human feeling, which were to inspire Titanic achieve 
ments in the future. Soon after, he scaled the tragic 
heights of Borneo and Juliet, and he was rightly hailed 
as the prophet of a new world of art. Thenceforth he 
marched onward in triumph. 

Fashionable London society befriended the new birth 
of the theatre. Cultivated noblemen offered their patron 
age to promising actors or writers for the The Earl 
stage, and Shakespeare sooned gained the of South- 
ear of the young Earl of Southampton, one ampton. 
of the most accomplished and handsome of the Queen's 
noble courtiers. The earl was said to spend nearly all 
his leisure at the playhouse every day. 

It is not always borne in mind that Shakespeare 
gained soon after the earliest of his theatrical successes 
notable recognition from the highest in the land, from 
Queen Elizabeth, and her Court ; It was probably at 
the suggestion of his enthusiastic patron, Lord South 
ampton, that, in the week preceding the Christmas of 


1594, when Shakespeare was thirty, and he had just 
turned the corner of his career, the Lord Chamberlain, 
who controlled the entertainment of the Court, sent a 
stirring message to the theatre in Shoreditch, where 
Shakespeare was at work as playwright and actor. The 
young dramatist was ordered to present himself at Court 
for two days following Christmas, and to give his sover 
eign on each of the two evenings a taste of his quality. 

The invitation was of singular interest. It cannot have 
been Shakespeare's promise as an actor that led to the 
Shake- royal summons. His histrionic fame did not 
speare at progress at the same rate as his literary re- 
Court, pute. He was never to win the laurels of a 
great actor. His most conspicuous triumph on the stage 
was achieved in middle life as the Ghost in his own 
Hamlet, and he ordinarily confined his efforts to old 
men of secondary rank. Ample compensation for his 
personal deficiencies as an actor was provided by the 
merits of his companions on his first visit to Court ; he 
was to come supported by actors of the highest eminence 
in their generation. Directions were given that the 
greatest of the tragic actors of the day, [Richard Bur- 
bage, and the greatest of the comic actors, William 
Kemp, were to bear the young actor-dramatist company. 
With neither of these was Shakespeare's histrionic posi 
tion then, or at any time, comparable. For years they 
were the leaders of the acting profession. Shakespeare's 
relations with Burbage and Kemp were close, both 
privately and professionally. Almost all Shakespeare's 
great tragic characters were created on the stage by 
Burbage, who had lately roused London to enthu 
siasm by his stirring representation of Shakespeare's 
Richard III. for the first time. As long as Kemp lived 


he conferred a like service on many of Shakespeare's 
comic characters, and he had recently proved his worth 
as a Shakespearean comedian by his original rendering 
of the part of Peter, the Nurse's graceless serving-man, 
in Romeo and Juliet, Thus powerfully supported, 
Shakespeare appeared for the first time in the royal 
presence-chamber in Greenwich Palace on the evening 
of St. Stephen's Day (the Boxing-day of subsequent 
generations) in 1594. 

Extant documentary evidence of this visit of Shake 
speare to Court may be seen in the manuscript account 
of the ' Treasurer of the [royal] chamber ' A perform- 
now in the Public Record Office in London. a nce at 
The document attests that Shakespeare and Court in 
his two associates performed one 'Comedy *594- 
or Interlude' on that night of Boxing-day in 1594, and 
gave another ' Comedy or Interlude ' on the next night 
but one (on Innocents'-day) ; that the Lord Chamber 
lain paid the three men for their services the sum of 
^13, 6s. 8d., and that the Queen added to the honor 
arium, as a personal proof of her satisfaction, the further 
sum of ;6, 133. 4d. The remuneration was thus ^20 
in all. These were substantial sums in those days, 
when the purchasing power of money was eight times 
as much as it is to-day, and the three actors' reward 
would now be equivalent to ;i6o. Unhappily, the 
record does not go beyond the payment of the money. 
What words of commendation or encouragement Shake 
speare received from his royal auditor are not handed 
down to us, nor do we know for certain what plays were 
performed on the great occasion. It is reasonable to 
infer that all the scenes came from Shakespeare's reper 
tory. Probably they were drawn from Love's Labour's 


Lost, which was always popular in later years at Eliza 
beth's Court, and from the The Comedy of Errors, in 
which the farcical confusions and horse-play were cal 
culated to gratify the Queen's robust taste. But nothing 
can be stated with absolute certainty except that on 
December 29, 1594, Shakespeare travelled up the River 
Thames from Greenwich to London with a heavier purse 
and a lighter heart than on his setting out. That the 
visit had in all ways been crowned with success there is 
ample indirect evidence. He and his work had fasci 
nated his sovereign, and many a time was she to seek 
delight again in the renderings of his plays, by himself 
and his fellow actors, at her palaces on the banks of the 
Thames during her remaining nine years of life. 

When, a few months later, Shakespeare was penning 
his new play of A Midsummer Nighfs Dream, he could 
Shake- n t forbear to make a passing obeisance of 
speare's gallantry (in that vein for which the old 
gallantry. spinster queen was always thirsting) to 'a 
fair vestal throned by the West,' who passed her life ' in 
maiden meditation, fancy free.' 

The interest that Shakespeare's work excited at the 
Court was continuous throughout his life, and helped to 
Continu- render his position unassailable. When 
ance of James I. ascended the throne, no author was 
Court more frequently honoured by 'command' 

favour. performances of his plays in the presence of 
the sovereign. Then, as now, the playgoer's apprecia 
tion was quickened by his knowledge that the play he 
was witnessing had been produced before the Court at 
Greenwich or Whitehall a few days earlier. Shake 
speare's publishers were not above advertising facts like 
these, as the title-pages of quarto editions published in 


his lifetime sufficiently prove. 'The pleasant conceited 
comedy called Love's Labour's Lost* was advertised 
with the appended words, ' as it was presented publishers' 
before her highness this last Christmas.' advertise- 
' A most pleasant and excellent conceited ments of 
comedy of Sir John Falstaff and the Merry the fact - 
Wives of Windsor* was stated to have been 'divers 
times acted both before her Majesty and elsewhere.' 
The ineffably great play of King Lear was advertised 
with something like tradesmanlike effrontery 'as it was 
played before the King's Majesty at Whitehall on St. 
Stephen's Night in the Christmas Holidays.' 

But the Court never stood alone in its admiration of 
Shakespeare's work. Court and crowd never differed in 
their estimation of his dramatic power. There The favour 
is no doubt that Shakespeare conspicuously of the 
caught the ear of the Elizabethan playgoers crowd, 
of all classes at a very early date in his career, and held 
it firmly for life. ' These plays,' wrote two of his pro 
fessional associates of the reception of the whole series 
in the playhouse during his lifetime, ' these plays have 
had their trial already, and stood out all appeals.' 
Equally significant is Ben Jonson's apostrophe of Shake 
speare as 

' The applause, delight, and wonder of our stage.' 

A charge has sometimes been brought against the 
Elizabethan playgoer of failing to recognise Shake- 


speare's sovereign genius. That accusation should be 
reckoned among popular fallacies. It was not merely 
P ular * ne recognition of the fashionable, the crit- 
fallacy of ical, the highly-educated, that Shakespeare 
Shake- personally received. It was by the voice of the 
speare's half-educated populace, whose heart and intel- 
neg ect. j gct wgre Qr once j n ^g r jght, that he was 

acclaimed the greatest interpreter of human nature that 
literature had known, and, as subsequent experience has 
proved, was likely to know. There is evidence that 
throughout his lifetime and for a generation afterwards 
his plays drew crowds to pit, boxes, and gallery alike. 
It is true that he was one of a number of popular 
dramatists, many of whom had rare gifts, and all of 
whom glowed with a spark of the genuine literary fire. 
But Shakespeare was the sun in the firmament ; when 
his light shone the fires of all contemporaries paled in 
the contemporary playgoer's eye. Very forcible and 
very humorous was the portrayal of human frailty and 
eccentricity in the plays of Shakespeare's contemporary, 
Ben Jonson. Ben Jonson, too, was a fine classical 
scholar, which Shakespeare, despite his general know 
ledge of Latin, was not. But when Shakespeare and 
Ben Jonson both tried their hands at dramatising 
episodes in Roman history, the Elizabethan public of 
all degrees of intelligence welcomed Shakespeare's 
efforts with an enthusiasm which they rigidly withheld 
from Ben Jonson's. This is how an ordinary playgoer 
contrasted in crude verse the reception of Jonson's 
Roman play of Catiline's Conspiracy with that of 
Shakespeare's Roman play of Julius Ccesar : 

' So have I seen when Caesar would appear, 
And on the stage at half-sword parley were 


Brutus and Cassius oh ! how the audience 
Were ravished, with what wonder they went thence ; 
When some new day they would not brook a line 
Of tedious though well-laboured Catiline.' 

Jonson's 'tedious though well-laboured Catiline' was 
unendurable when compared with the ravishing interest 
of Julius Ccesar. 

Shakespeare was the popular favourite. It is rare 
that the artist who is a hero with the multi- Snake . 
tude is also a hero with the cultivated few. speare's 
But Shakespeare's universality of appeal was univer- 
such as to include among his worshippers sallt y of 
from first to last the trained and the untrained a PP eal> 
playgoer of his time. 


Shakespeare's work was exceptionally progressive in 
quality ; few authors advanced in their art more steadily. 
His hand grew firmer, his thought grew p rogress . 
richer, as his years increased, and apart from ive quality 
external evidence as to the date of production of his 
or publication of his plays, the discerning work - 
critic can determine from the versification, and from the 
general handling of his theme, to what period in his 
life each composition belongs. All the differences dis 
cernible in Shakespeare's plays c'carly prove the gradual 
but steady development of dramatic power and temper ; 
they separate with definiteness early from late work. 
The comedies of Shakespeare's younger days often 
trench upon the domains of farce ; those of his middle 
and later life approach the domain of tragedy. Tragedy 
in his hands markedly grew, as his years advanced, in 


subtlety and intensity. His tragic themes became more 
and more complex, and betrayed deeper and deeper 
knowledge of the workings of human passion. Finally 
the storm and stress of tragedy yielded to the placid 
pathos of romance. All the evidence shows that, when 
his years of probation ended, he mastered in steady 
though rapid succession every degree and phase of 
excellence in the sphere of drama, from the phantasy 
of A Midsummer Nighfs Dream to the unmatchable 
humour of Falstaff, from the passionate tragedies of 
King Lear and Othello to the romantic pathos of Cym- 
beline and The Tempest. 


Another side of Shakespeare's character and biog 
raphy deserves attention. He was not merely a great 
His prac- P oet anc ^ dramatist, endowed with imagina- 
tical hand- tion without rival or parallel in human 
ling of history ; he was a practical man of the world, 
affairs. jjj g wor ] { proves that his unique intuition 

was not merely that of a man of imaginative genius, but 
that of a man who was deeply interested and well versed 
in the affairs of everyday life. With that practical sense, 
which commonly characterises the man of the world, 
Shakespeare economised his powers and spared his 
inventive energy, despite its abundance, wherever his 
purpose could be served by levying loans on the 
writings of others. He rarely put himself to the pains 
of inventing a plot for his dramas; he borrowed his 
fables from popular current literature, such as Holin- 
shed's Chronicles, North's translation of Plutarch's Lives, 
widely read romances, or even plays that had already 


met with more or less success on the stage. It was not 
merely ' airy nothings ' and ' forms of things unknown ' 
the creatures of his imagination that found in his 
dramas ' a local habitation and a name ; ' he depended 
very often on the solid fruit of serious reading. By 
such a method he harboured his strength, at the same 
time as he deliberately increased his hold on popular 
taste. He diminished the risk of failure to satisfy the 
standard of public culture. Naturally he altered his 
borrowed plots as his sense of artistic fitness dictated, 
or refashioned them altogether. From rough ore he 
usually extracted pure gold, but there was business 
aptitude in his mode of gathering the treasure. In like 
manner the amount of work he accomplished in the 
twenty years of his active professional career amply 
proves his steady power of application, and the regu 
larity with which he pursued his literary vocation. 

Appreciation of his practical mode of literary work 
should leave no room for surprise at the discovery that 
he engaged with success in the practical The return 
affairs of life which lay outside the sphere of to Strat- 
his art. As soon as the popularity of his ford - 
work for the theatre was assured, and he had acquired 
by way of reward a valuable and profitable share in the 
profits of the company to which he was attached, Shake 
speare returned to his native place, filled with the am 
bition of establishing his family there on a sure footing. 
His father's debts had grown in his absence, and his 
wife had had to borrow money for her support. But 
his return in prosperous circumstances finally relieved 
his kindred of pecuniary anxiety. He purchased the 
largest house in the town, New Place, and, like other 
actors of the day, faced a long series of obstacles in an 


effort to obtain for his family a coat of arms. He in 
vested money in real estate at Stratford ; he acquired 
arable land as well as pasture. His Stratford neigh 
bours, who had known him as a poor lad, now appealed 
to him for loans or gifts of money in their need, and for 
the exercise of his influence in their behalf in London. 
He proved himself a rigorous man in all business 
matters with his neighbours, asserting his legal rights in 
all financial relations in the local courts, where he often 
appeared as plaintiff, and usually came off victorious. 
His average income in later life was reputed by his 
neighbours to exceed a thousand pounds a year. 

No mystery attaches to Shakespeare's financial com 
petency. It is easily traceable to his professional 
His finan- earnings as author, actor, and theatrical 
cial com- shareholder and to his shrewd handling of 
petence. his revenues. Shakespeare's ultimate finan 
cial position differs little from that which his fellow 
theatrical managers and actors made for themselves. 
The profession of the theatre flourished conspicuously 
in his day, and brought fortunes to most of those who 
shared in theatrical management. Shakespeare's pro 
fessional friends and colleagues leading actors and 
managers of the playhouses were in late life men of 
substance. Like him, they had residences in both town 
and country; they owned houses and lands; and laid 
questionable claim to coat armour.* Edward Alleyn, 

* A manuscript tract, entitled ' A brief discourse of the causes of 
the discord amongst the officers of Arms and of the great abuses 
and absurdities committed to the prejudice and hindrance of the 
office,' was recently lent me by its owner. It is in the handwriting 
of one of the smaller officials of the College of Arms, William 
Smith, rouge dragon pursuivant, and throws curious light on the 


an actor and playhouse manager, began life in much the 
same way as Shakespeare, and was only two years his 
junior; at the munificent expense of ten thousand 
pounds he endowed out of his theatrical earnings, after 
making due provision for his family, the great College 
of God's Gift, with almshouses attached, at Dulwich, 
within four miles of the theatrical quarter of Southwark. 
The explanation of such wealth is not far to seek. The 
fascination of novelty still hung about the theatre even 
when Shakespeare retired from work. The Eliza- 
passion for heraldry which infested Shakespeare's actor-colleagues. 
Rouge-dragon specially mentions in illustration of his theme two of 
Shakespeare's professional colleagues, namely Augustine Phillipps 
and Thomas Pope, both of whose names are enshrined in that leaf 
of the great First Folio which enumerates the principal actors of 
Shakespeare's plays during his lifetime. Augustine Phillipps was 
an especiaily close friend, and left Shakespeare by his will a thirty 
shilling piece in gold. Both these men, Pope and Phillipps, ac 
cording to the manuscript, spared no effort to obtain and display 
that hall-mark of gentility a coat of arms. Both made unjusti 
fiable claim to be connected with persons of high rank. When 
applying for coat-armour to the College of Arms, ' Pope the player,' 
we are told, would have no other arms than those of Sir Thomas 
Pope, a courtier and privy councillor, who died early in Elizabeth's 
reign, and perpetuated his name by founding a college at Oxford, 
Trinity College. The only genuine tie between him and the 
player was identity of a not uncommon surname. Phillipps the 
player claimed similar relations with a remoter hero, one Sir Wil 
liam Phillipps, a warrior who won renown at Agincourt, and who 
was allowed to bear his father-in-law's title of Lord Bardolph a 
title very familiar to readers of Shakespeare in a different connec 
tion. The actor Phillipps, to the disgust of the heraldic critic, 
caused the arms of this spurious ancestor, Sir William Phillipps, 
Lord Bardolph, to be engraved with due quarterings on a gold 
ring. The critic tells how he went with a colleague to a small 
graver's shop in Foster Lane, in the City, and saw the ring that 
had been engraved for the player. 


bethans, and the men and women in Jacobean England, 
were excepting those of an ultra-pious disposition 
enthusiastic playgoers and seekers after amusement, and 
the stirring recreation which the playhouse provided was 
generously and even extravagantly remunerated. There 
is nothing exceptional either in the amount of the profits 
which Shakespeare derived from connection with theatri 
cal enterprise or in the manner in which he spent them. 


Finally, about 1611, Shakespeare made Stratford his 

permanent home. He retired from the active exercise 

of his profession, in order to enjoy those 

honours and privileges which, according to 

the prevailing social code, wealth only 

brought in full measure to a playwright after he ceased 

actively to follow his career. Shakespeare practically 

admitted that his final aim was what at the outset of his 

days he had defined as ' the aim of all ' : 

' The aim of all is but to nurse this life 
Unto honour, wealth, and ease in waning age.' 

Shakespeare probably paid occasional visits to London 
in the five years that intervened between his retirement 
from active life and his death. In 1613 he purchased 
a house in Blackfriars, apparently merely by way of 
investment. He then seems, too, to have disposed of 
his theatrical shares. For the work of his life was over, 
and he devoted the evening of his days to rest in his 
native place, and to the undisturbed tenure of the 
respect of his neighbours. He was on good terms with 


the leading citizens of Stratford, and occasionally invited 
literary friends from London to be his guests. In local 
politics he took a very modest part. There he figured 
on the side of the wealthy, and showed little regard for 
popular rights, especially when they menaced property. 
At length, early in 1616, when his fifty-second year was 
closing, his health began to fail, and he died in his 
great house at Stratford on Tuesday, April 23, 1616, 
probably on his fifty-second birthday. 

Shakespeare carefully attended in the last months of 
his life to the disposition of his property, which con 
sisted, apart from houses and lands, of ^350 . 
in money (nearly ^3000 in modern cur 
rency), and much valuable plate and other personalty. 
His wife and two daughters survived him. He left the 
bulk of his possessions to his elder daughter, Susanna, 
who was married to a medical practitioner at Stratford, 
John Hall. He bequeathed nothing to his wife except 
his second best bedstead, probably because she had 
smaller business capacity to deal with property than her 
daughter Susanna, to whose affectionate care she was 
entrusted. Shakespeare's younger daughter, Judith, was 
adequately provided for ; and to his granddaughter, his 
elder daughter's daughter, Elizabeth, who was ultimately 
his last direct survivor, he left most of his plate. The 
legatees included three of the dramatist's fellow-actors, 
to each of whom he left a sum of 265. 8d., wherewith 
to buy memorial rings. Such a bequest well confirms 
the reputation that he enjoyed among his profes 
sional colleagues for geniality and gentle sympathy. 
Other bequests show that he reckoned to the last 
his chief neighbours at Stratford among his intimate 


Shakespeare was buried in the chancel of the church 

of his native town, Stratford-on-Avon. On 
His burial. , , , .. , . 

the slab of stone covering the grave on the 

chancel floor were inscribed the lines : 

' Good frend for Jesus sake forbeare, 
To digg the dust encloased heare : 
Bleste be ye man yt spares thes stones, 
And curst be he yt moves my bones.' 

A justification of this doggerel inscription is (if 
needed) not far to seek. According to one William 
Hall, who described a visit to Stratford in 1694, these 
crude verses were penned by Shakespeare to suit the 
capacity of ' clerks and sextons, for the most part a very 
ignorant set of people.' Had this curse not threatened 
them, Hall proceeds, the sexton would not have hesi 
tated in course of time to remove Shakespeare's dust to 
' the bone-house,' to which desecration Shakespeare had 
a rooted antipathy. As it was, the grave was made 
seventeen feet deep, and was never opened, even to 
receive his wife, although she expressed a desire to be 
buried in the same grave with her husband. 

But more important is it to remember that a monu 
ment was soon placed on the chancel wall near his 

grave. The inscription upon Shake- 
Ehsmonu- are , g tomb j n Stratford-on-Avon Church 

attests that Shakespeare, the native of Strat 
ford-on-Avon, who went to London a poor youth and 
returned in middle life a man of substance, was known 
in his native place as the greatest man of letters of his 
epoch. In these days, when we hear doubts expressed 
of the fact that the writer of the great plays identified 
with Shakespeare's name was actually associated with 


Stratford-on-Avon at all, this epitaph should, in the 
interests of truth and good sense, be learned by heart in 
youth by every English-speaking persoa The epitaph 
opens with a Latin distich, in which Shakespeare is 
likened, not perhaps very appositely, to three great heroes 
of classical antiquity in judgment to Nestor, in genius 
to Socrates (certainly an inapt comparison), and in art 
or literary power to Virgil, the greatest of Latin poets. 
Earth is said to cover him, the people to mourn him, 
and Olympus to hold him. Then follows this English 
verse, not brilliant verse, but verse that leaves no reader 
in doubt as to its significance : 

' Stay, passenger, why goest thou by so fast ? 
Read, it thou canst, whom envious death hath plast 
Within this monument ; Shakespeare, with whom 
Quicke nature died : * whose name doth deck this tombe 
Far more than cost : sith all that he hath writ 
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.' 

There follows the statement in Latin that he died on 
23rd April 1616. 

' All that he hath writ 
Leaves living art but page to serve his wit.' 

These words mean only one thing : at Stratford-on-Avon, 

* It is curious to note that Cardinal Pietro Bembo, one of the 
most cultivated writers of the Italian Renaissance, was author of 
the epitaph on the painter Raphael, which seems to adumbrate 
(doubtless accidentally) the words in Shakespeare's epitaph, ' with 
whom Quicke Nature died.' Bembo's lines run : 

1 Hie ille est Raphael, metuit quo sospite vinci 
Rerum magna parens, et moriente, mori.' 

(' Here lies the famous Raphael, in whose lifetime 
great mother Nature feared to be outdone, and 
at whose death feared to die.') 


his native place, Shakespeare was held to enjoy a univer 
sal reputation. Literature by all other living pens was 
at the date of his death only fit, in the eyes of his fellov- 
townsmen, to serve ' all that he had writ ' as pageboy or 
menial. There he was the acknowledged master, and 
all other writers were his servants. The epitaph can be 
explained in no other sense. Until the tongue that 
Shakespeare spoke is dead, so long as the English lan 
guage exists and is understood, it is futile to express 
doubt of the traditionally accepted facts of Shakespeare's 


The church at Stratford-on-Avon, which holds Shake 
speare's bones, must always excite the liveliest sense 
. of veneration among the English-speaking 

peoples. It is there that is enshrined the 
final testimony to his ascent by force of genius from 
obscurity to glory. But great as is the importance of 
the inscription on his tomb to those who would under 
stand the drift of Shakespeare's personal history, it was 
not the only testimony to the plain current of his life that 
found imperishable record in the epoch of his death. 
Biographers did not lie in wait for men of eminence on 
their deathbeds in Shakespeare's age, but the place of 
the modern memoir-writer was filled in those days by 
friendly poets, who were usually alert to pay fit homage 
in elegiac verse to a dead hero's achievements. In that 
regard Shakespeare's poetic friends showed at his death 
exceptional energy. During his lifetime men of letters 
had bestowed on his ' reigning wit,' on his kingly suprem 
acy of genius, most generous stores of eulogy. When 


Shakespeare lay dead, in the spring of 1616, when, as 
one of his admirers technically phrased it, he had with 
drawn from the stage of the world to the ' tiring-house ' 
or dressing-room of the grave, the flood of panegyrical 
lamentation poured forth in a new flood. One of the 
earliest of the elegies was a sonnet by William Basse, 
who not only gave picturesque expression to the con 
viction that Shakespeare would enjoy for all time a 
unique reverence on the part of his countrymen, but 
brought into strong relief the fact that national obsequies 
were held by his contemporaries to be his due, and that 
the withholding of them was contrary to a widely dis 
seminated wish. In the opening lines of his poem 
Basse apostrophised Chaucer, Spenser, and the drama 
tist, Francis Beaumont, the only three poets who had 
hitherto received the recognition of burial in Westminster 
Abbey. Beaumont, the youngest of the trio, had been 
buried in the Abbey only five weeks before Shakespeare 
died. To this honoured trio Basse made appeal to ' lie 
a thought more nigh' one to another so as to make 
room for the newly dead Shakespeare within their 
'sacred sepulchre.' Then, in the second half of his 
sonnet, the poet justified the fact that Shakespeare was 
buried elsewhere by the reflection that he in right of his 
pre-eminence merited a tomb apart from all his fellows. 
With a glance at Shakespeare's distant grave in the 
chancel of Stratford-on-Avon church, the writer ex 
claimed : 

' Under this carved marble of thine own 
Sleep, brave tragedian, Shakespeare, sleep alone." 1 

This fine sentiment found many a splendid echo. It 
resounded in Ben Jonson's noble lines prefixed to the 


First Folio of 1623. 'To the memory of my beloved, 
the author, Mr. William Shakespeare, and what he hath 
left us.' 

' My Shakespeare, rise ! I will not lodge thee by 
Chaucer, or Spenser, or bid Beaumont lie 
A little further to make thee a room. 
Thou art a monument without a tomb, 
And art alive still, while thy book doth live 
And we have wits to read and praise to give.' 

Milton qualified the conceit a few years later, in 1630, 
when he declared that Shakespeare ' sepulchred ' in ' the 
monument ' of his writings, 

' in such pomp doth lie, 
That kings for such a tomb would wish to die.' 

Never was a glorious immortality foretold for any 
man with more impressive confidence than it was fore- 
Prophecy told for Shakespeare at his death by his circle 
ofimmor- of adorers. When Time, one elegist said, 
tolit y' should dissolve his 'Stratford monument,' 

the laurel about Shakespeare's brow would wear its 
greenest hue. Shakespeare's critical friend, Ben Jonson, 
was but one of a numerous band who imagined the 
'sweet swan of Avon,' 'the star of poets,' shining for 
ever as a constellation in the firmament. Ben Jonson 
did not stand alone in anticipating that his fame would 
always shed a golden light on his native place of Strat 
ford and the river Avon which ran beside it. Such was 
the invariable temper in which literary men gave vent 
to their grief on learning the death of the 'beloved 
author,' 'the famous scenicke poet,' 'the admirable 
dramaticke poet,' ' that famous writer and actor,' ' worthy 
master William Shakespeare ' of Stratford-on-Avon. 


When Shakespeare died, on the 23rd April 1616, 
many men and women were alive who had come 
into personal association with him, and 

there were many more who had heard of . j.. 
, . ,. ., t_ i j , -i,. tradition, 

mm from those who had spoken with him. 

Apart from his numerous kinsfolk, his widow, sister, 
brother, daughters, nephews, and neighbours at Stratford- 
on-Avon, there were in London a large society of 
fellow-authors and fellow-actors with whom he lived in 
close communion. In London, where Shakespeare's 
work was mainly done, and his fortune and reputation 
achieved, he lived with none in more intimate social 
relations than with the leading members of his own 
prosperous company of actors, which, under the patron 
age of the king, produced his greatest plays. It is to 
be borne in mind that to the disinterested admiration 
for his genius of two fellow-members of Shakespeare's 
company we chiefly owe the preservation and publication 
of the greater part of his literary work in the First Folio, 
that volume which first offered the world a full record 
of his achievement, and is the greatest of England's 
literary treasures. Those actor-editors of his dramas, 
Heming and Condell, acknowledged plainly and sin 
cerely the personal fascination that c so worthy a friend 
and fellow as was our Shakespeare' had exerted on 
them. All his fellow-workers cherished an affectionate 
pride in the intimacy. It was they who were the parents 
of the greater part of the surviving oral tradition con 
cerning Shakespeare a tradition which combines with 
the extant documentary evidence to make Shakespeare's 


biography as unassailable as any narrative known to 

Some links in the chain of Shakespeare's career are 
still missing, and we must wait for the future to disclose 
The them. But though the clues at present are 

certainty in some places faint, the trail never altogether 
of our eludes the patient investigator. The ascer- 

knowledge. t a j ne( j facts are already numerous enough to 
define beyond risk of intelligent doubt the direction 
that Shakespeare's career followed. Its general outline 
is fully established by a continuous and unimpeachable 
chain of oral tradition, which survives from the seven 
teenth century, and by documentary evidence far 
more documentary evidence than exists in the case of 
Shakespeare's great literary contemporaries. How many- 
distinguished Elizabethan and Jacobean authors have 
shared the fate of John Webster, next to Shakespeare 
the most eminent tragic dramatist of the era, of whom 
no positive biographic fact survives ? 

It may be justifiable to cherish regret for the loss of 
Shakespeare's autograph papers, and of his familiar 
The correspondence. Only five signatures of 

absence of Shakespeare survive, and no other fragments 
his manu- of his handwriting have been discovered, 
scripts. Other reputed autographs of Shakespeare 
have been found in books of his time, but none has 
quite established its authenticity. Yet the absence of 
autograph material can excite scepticism of the received 
tradition only in those who are ignorant of Elizabethan 
literary history who are ignorant of the fate that in 
variably befell the original manuscripts and correspond 
ence of Elizabethan and Jacobean poets and dramatists. 
Save for a few fragments of small literary moment, no 


play of the era in its writer's autograph escaped early 
destruction by fire or dustbin. No machinery then 
ensured, no custom then encouraged, the due preserva 
tion of the autographs of men distinguished for poetic 
genius. The amateur's passion for autograph collecting 
is of far later date. Provision was made in the public 
record offices, or in private muniment-rooms of great 
country mansions, for the protection of the official papers 
and correspondence of men in public life, and of manu 
script memorials affecting the property and domestic 
history of great county families. But even in the case 
of men, in the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries, in 
official life who, as often happened, devoted their leisure 
to literature, autographs of their literary compositions 
have for the most part perished, and there usually only 
remain in the official depositories remnants of their 
writing about matters of official routine. Some docu 
ments signed by Edmund Spenser, while he was 
Secretary to the Lord Deputy of Ireland, or holding 
official positions in the Government of Ireland, survive, 
but where is the manuscript of Spenser'* poems of his 
Shepheards Calender, or his great epic of the Faerie 
Queene ? Official papers signed by Sir Walter Ralegh, 
who filled a large place in English public life of the 
period, survive, but where is any fragment of the manu^ 
script of his voluminous History of the World ? 

Not all the depositories of official and family papers 
in England, it is to be admitted, have yet been fully 
explored, and in some of them a more thorough search 
than has yet been undertaken may possibly throw new 
light on Shakespeare's biography or work. Meanwhile, 
instead of mourning helplessly over the lack of material 
for a knowledge of Shakespeare's life, it becomes us to 


estimate aright what we have at our command, to study 
it closely in the light of the literary history of the epoch, 
and, while neglecting no opportunity of bettering our 
information, to recognise frankly the activity of the 
destroying agencies that have been at work from the 
outset. Then we shall wonder, not why we know so 
little, but why we know so much. 



' . . . All the learnings that his time 
Could make him the receiver of, ... he took, 
As we do air, fast as 'twas minister'd, 
And in 's spring became a harvest.' 

Cymbeline, I. i. 43-46. 

' His learning savours not the school-like gloss 
That most consists in echoing words and terms . . . 
Nor any long or far-fetched circumstance 
Wrapt in the curious generalties of arts 
But a direct and analytic sum 
Of all the worth and first effects of art. 
And for his poesy, 'tis so rammed with life 
That it shall gather strength of life with being, 
And live hereafter more admired than now. ' 

BEN JONSON, Poetaster, v. i. 

[BIBLIOGRAPHY Study of foreign influences on Shake 
speare's work has not been treated exhaustively. M. Paul 
Stepper's Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity, 1880, covers 
satisfactorily a portion of the ground, and much that is use 
ful may be found in Shakespeare's Library, edited by J. P. 
Collier and W. C. Hazlitt, 1875, and Shakespeare's Plutarch, 
edited by Prof. Skeat, 1875. Mr. Churton Collins's Shake 
spearean Studies, 1904, and Mr. J. M. Robertson's Mon 
taigne and Shakespeare, 1897, throw light on portions of 
the topic, although all the conclusions reached cannot be 
fully accepted. Of the indebtedness of Elizabethan writers 


to Italian and French poets, much has been collected by 
the present writer in his introduction to Elizabethan 
Sonnets (Messrs. Constable's 'An English Garner,' 2 vols., 

ART and letters of the supreme kind, we are warned by 
Goethe, know nothing of the petty restrictions of nation- 
Shake- ality. Shakespeare, the greatest poet of the 
speare's world, is claimed to be the property of the 
universal world. Some German writers have carried 
repute. tn j s ar g urn ent further. They have treated 
Shakespeare as one of themselves, and the only com 
plaint that Germans have been known of late years to 
make of Shakespeare is that he had the inferior taste to 
be born an Englishman. 

The interval between English and French literary 
sentiment is far wider than that between English and 

German literary sentiment. It is therefore 
In France. ...-* 

significant to note that France, too, regards 

Shakespeare as an embodiment of that highest kind of 
power of the human intellect which gives a claim of 
kinship with him to every thinking man, no matter what 
his race or country. Victor Hugo recognised only three 
men as really memorable in the world's history ; Moses 
and Homer were two of them, Shakespeare was the 
third. The elder Dumas, the prince of romancers, gave 
even more pointed expression to his faith in Shake 
speare's pre-eminence in the' Pantheon, not of any 
single nation or era, but of the everlasting universe. 
Dumas set the English dramatist next to God in the 
cosmic system : ' After God, Shakespeare has created 


In presence of so exalted an estimate there is some 
thing bathetic, something hardly magnanimous, in insist 
ing on the comparatively minor matter of fact shake- 
that Shakespeare was an Englishman, a kins- speare's 
man of the English-speaking peoples, born in patriotism, 
the sixteenth century in the heart of England, and 
enjoying experiences which were common to all con 
temporary Englishmen of the same station in life. Yet 
Shakespeare's identity with England with the English- 
speaking race is a circumstance that accurate scholar 
ship compels us to keep well before our minds. It is a 
circumstance which Shakespeare himself presses on our 
notice in his works. Shakespeare was not superior to 
the ordinary, natural, healthy, instinct of patriotism. 
English history he studied in a patriotic light, even if it 
be admitted that his patriotism was a well-regulated 
sentiment which sought the truth. In his English 
History plays he made contributions to a national epic. 
His Histories are detached books of an English Iliad. 
They are no blind heroic glorifications of the nation; 
Shakespeare's kings are more remarkable for their fail 
ings than their virtues. But Shakespeare pays repeated 
homage to his own country, to the proud independence 
which its geographical position emphasised, to the duty 
laid by nature on its inhabitants of mastering the seas 
that encompass it : 

' England bound in with the triumphant sea, 
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege 
Of wat'ry Neptune.' 

The significance of the sea for Englishmen was recog 
nised by Shakespeare as fully as by any English writer. 
His lines glow with exceptional thrill when he writes of 


' The natural bravery of the isle, which stands 
As Neptune's park, ribbed and belted in 
With rocks unscaleable, and roaring waters.' 

None but an Englishman could have apostrophised 
England as 

' This precious stone, set in a silver sea, 
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England. ' 

Shakespeare's great contemporary, Bacon, bequeathed 
by will his name and memory to men's charitable 

speeches, and to foreign nations, and the 
His next- c,, i j 

of-kin n a g es - Shakespeare made no testamen 

tary dispositions of his name and memory, 
and by default his name and memory become the herit 
age of the English-speaking peoples, his next-of-kin. 

But the depth of Shakespeare's interest in his country 
and her fortunes, his instinctive identification of himself 
Foreign w ^ England and Englishmen, is a fact of 
influence secondary importance in any fruitful diagnosis 
on Eliza- of his genius or work. Neither Elizabethan 
bethan literature nor his spacious contribution to it 
lre ' came to birth in insular isolation ; they form 
part of the European literature of the Renaissance. 

Full of suggestiveness are the facts that Shakespeare 
was born in the year of Michael Angelo's death and of 
Galileo's birth, and that he died in the same year as 
Cervantes. He was sharer of the enlightenment of the 
great era which saw the new birth of the human intellect 
in all countries of Western Europe. 


No student will dispute the proposition that Eliza 
bethan England was steeped in foreign influences. 
Elizabethan literature abounded in translations from 
Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and Spanish, in adapta 
tions of every manner of foreign literary effort. The 
spirit and substance of foreign literature were among the 
elements of which Elizabethan literature was com 
pounded. Literary forms which were imported from 
abroad, like the sonnet and blank verse, became in 
digenous to Elizabethan England. The Elizabethan 
drama, the greatest literary product of the Elizabethan 
epoch, was built largely upon classical foundations, and 
its plots were framed on stories invented by the novelists 
of the Italian Renaissance. Shakespeare described an 
Elizabethan gallant or man of fashion as buying 'his 
doublet in Italy, his round hose in France, his bonnet 
in Germany, and his behaviour everywhere.' The 
remark might easily be applied figuratively to the habili 
ments to the characteristics of Elizabethan literature. 
The dress and fashion of Elizabethan literature were 
more often than not Continental importations. 

The freedom with which the Elizabethans adapted 
contemporary poetry of France and Italy at times seems 
inconsistent with the dictates of literary Eliza- 
honesty. Many a poem, which was issued bethan 
in Elizabethan England as an original com- plagiarism, 
position, proves on investigation to be an ingenious 
translation from another tongue. The practice of un 
acknowledged borrowing went far beyond the limits 
which a high standard of literary morality justifies. 
Such action was tolerated to an extent to which no 
other great literary epoch seems to offer a parallel. The 
greatest of the Elizabethans did not disdain on occasion 


to transfer secretly to their pages phrases and ideas 
drawn directly from foreign books. But it is unhistorical 
to exaggerate the significance of these foreign loans, 
whether secret or acknowledged. The national spirit 
was strong enough in Elizabethan England to maintain 
the individuality of its literature in the broad current. 
Despite the eager welcome which was extended to 
foreign literary forms and topics, despite the easy toler 
ance of plagiarism, the foreign influences, so far from 
suppressing native characteristics, ultimately invigorated, 
fertilised, and chastened them. 


Shakespeare's power of imagination was as fertile as 
that of any man known to history, but he had another 
Shake- power which is rarely absent from great 
speare's poets, the power of absorbing or assimilating 
assimila- the fruits of reading. Spenser, Milton, Burns, 
tive power. K ea t Sj an( j Tennyson had the like power, 
but probably none had it in quite the same degree as 
Shakespeare. In his case, as in the case of the other 
poets, this power of assimilation strengthened, rendered 
more robust, the productive power of his imagination. 
This assimilating power is as well worth minute study 
and careful definition as any other of Shakespeare's 

The investigation requires in the investigator a wide 
literary knowledge and a finely balanced judgment. 
Short-sighted critics, misapprehending the significance 
of his career, have sometimes credited Shakespeare 
with exceptional ignorance, even illiteracy. They have 


oracularly declared him to be a natural genius, owing 
nothing to the learning and literature that came before 
him, or were contemporary with him. That view is con 
tradicted point-blank by the external facts of his edu 
cation, and the internal facts of his work. A more 
modern type of critic has gone to the opposite extreme, 
and has credited Shakespeare with all the learning of an 
ideal professor of literature. This notion is as illusory 
as the other, and probably it has worked more mischief. 
This notion has led to the foolish belief that the facts of 
Shakespeare's career are inconsistent with the facts of 
his achievement. It is a point of view that has been 
accepted without serious testing by those half-informed 
persons who argue that the plays of Shakespeare must 
have come from the pen of one far more highly educated 
than we know Shakespeare to have been. 

The two views of Shakespeare's equipment of learning 
were put very epigram matically by critics writing a 
century and a half ago. One then said ' the man who 
doubts the learning of Shakespeare has none of his own ; ' 
the other critic asserted that ' he who allows Shakespeare 
had learning ought to be looked upon as a detractor from 
the glory of Great Britain.' 

Each of these apophthegms contains a sparse grain of 
truth. The whole truth lies between the two. Shake 
speare was obviously no scholar, but he was widely read 
in the literature that was at the disposal of cultivated 
men of his day. All that he read passed quickly into 
his mind, but did not long retain there the precise 
original form. It was at once assimilated, digested, 
transmuted by his always dominant imagination, and, 
when it came forth again in a recognisable shape, 
it bore, except in the rarest instances, the stamp of 


his great individuality, rather than the stamp of its 

Shakespeare's mind may best be likened to a highly 
sensitised photographic plate, which need only be ex- 
The instan- P ose d for the hundredth part of a second to 
taneous anything in life or literature, in order to 
power of receive upon its surface the firm outline of a 
perception. pi c t ure w hich could be developed and repro 
duced at will. If Shakespeare's mind for the hundredth 
part of a second came in contact in an alehouse with a 
burly good-humoured toper, the conception of a FalstafT 
found instantaneous admission to his brain. The char 
acter had revealed itself to him in most of its involu 
tions, as quickly as his eye caught sight of its external 
form, and his ear caught the sound of the voice. Books 
offered Shakespeare the same opportunity of realising 
human life and experience. A hurried perusal of an 
Italian story of a Jew in Venice conveyed to him the 
mental picture of Shylock, with all his racial tempera 
ment in energetic action, and all the background of 
Venetian scenery and society accurately defined. A few 
hours spent over Plutarch's Lives brought into being in 
Shakespeare's brain the true aspects of Roman character 
and Roman aspiration. Whencesoever the external im 
pressions came, whether from the world of books or the 
world of living men, the same mental process was at 
work, the same visualising instinct which made the thing, 
which he saw or read of, a living and a lasting reality. 


In any estimate of the extent of foreign influence on 
Shakespeare's work, it is well at the outset to realise the 


opportunities of acquaintance with foreign literatures 
that were opened to him in early life. A great man's 
education or mental training is not a process that stops 
with his school or his college days; it is in progress 
throughout his life. But youthful education usually 
suggests the lines along which future intellectual de 
velopment may proceed. 

At the grammar school at Stratford-on-Avon, where 
Shakespeare may be reasonably presumed to have spent 
seven years of boyhood, a sound training in Early in- 
the elements of classical learning was at the struction 
disposal of all comers. The general instruc- in Latin, 
tion was mainly confined to the Latin language and 
literature. From the Latin accidence, boys of the 
period, at schools of the type of that at Stratford, were 
led, through Latin conversation books, books of Latin 
phrases to be used in conversation, like the Sententiae 
Pueriles and Lily's Grammar, to the perusal of such 
authors as Seneca, Terence, Cicero, Virgil, Plautus, 
Ovid, and Horace. Nor was modern Latin literature 
altogether overlooked. The Latin eclogues of a popular 
Renaissance poet of Italy, Baptista Mantuanus 'the 
good old Mantuan ' Shakespeare familiarly calls him 
were often preferred to Virgil's for youthful students. 
Latin was the warp and woof of every Elizabethan 
grammar school curriculum. 

The rudiments of Greek were occasionally taught in 
Elizabethan grammar schools to very promising pupils ; 
but it is doubtful if Greek were accessible to Apparent 
Stratford schoolboys. It is unlikely that ignorance 
Shakespeare knew anything of Greek at first of Greek 
hand. Curious verbal coincidences have Ian 8 ua g e - 
been detected between sentences in the great Greek 


plays and in Shakespearean drama. Striking these often 
are. In the Electro, of Sophocles, which is akin in its 
leading motive to Hamlet^ the chorus consoles Electra 
for the supposed death of Orestes with the same expres 
sions of sympathy as those with which Hamlet's mother 
and uncle seek to console him on the loss of his 
father : 

' Remember Electra, your father whence you sprang is mortal, 
wherefore grieve not much, for by all of us has this debt of suffer 
ing to be paid.' 

In Hamlet are the familiar sentences 

' Thou know'st 'tis common ; all that live must die ; 
But, you must know, your father lost a father ; 
That father lost, lost his ... but to persever 
In obstinate condolement is a course 
Of impious stubbornness.' 

Shakespeare's ' prophetic soul,' which is found both in 
Hamlet and in the Sonnets^ is matched by the Tr/jo/Aavris 
dv/jios of Euripides's Andromache (1075). Hamlet's ' sea 
of troubles ' exactly translates the KCXKWV ireAayos of 
Accidental ^Eschylus's Persae (442). Such parallels 
coinci- could be easily extended. But none com- 
dences. p e ] s us to admit textual knowledge of 
^Eschylus or Sophocles or Euripides on Shakespeare's 
part. They barely do more than suggest the community 
of sentiment that binds all great thinkers together. 

Something of the Greek spirit lived in Latin, French, 
Italian, and English translations and adaptations of 
the masterpieces of Greek literature. Shakespeare 
gained some conception of the main features of Greek .;'; 
literature through those conduits. At least one epi- \ 


gram of the Greek anthology he turned through a 
Latin version into a sonnet. But there was no likeli 
hood that he sought at first hand in Greek poetry for 
gnomic reflections on the commonest vicissitudes of 
human life. Poets, who write quite independently of 
one another, often clothe such reflections in almost 
identical phrase. When we find a universal sentiment 
common to Shakespeare and a foreign author, it is 
illogical to infer that the sentiment has come to : Shake 
speare from that foreign author, unless we can establish 
two most important propositions. First, external fact 
must render such a transference probable or possible. 
There must be reasonable ground for the belief that the 
alleged borrower had direct access to the work from 
which he is supposed to borrow. Secondly, either the 
verbal similarity or the peculiar distinctness of the 
sentiment must be such as to render it easier to .believe 
that the utterance has been directly borrowed than that 
it has arisen independently in two separate minds. ^ 

In.the case of the Greek parallels of phrase it is easier 
to believe that the expressions reached Shakespeare in 
dependentlyby virtue of the independent working of 
the intuitive faculty-than that he directly borrowed 
them of their Greek prototypes. Most of the paral 
lelisms of thought and phrase between Shakespearean 
and the Attic drama are probably fortuitous, are acci 
dental proofs of consanguinity of spirit rather than 
evidences of Shakespeare's study of Greek. 

But although the Greek language is to be placed out 
side Shakespeare's scope at school and in later life, we 
may safely defy the opinion of Dr. Farmer, the < 
bridge scholar of the eighteenth century, who enun 
ciated in his famous Essay on Shakespeare's Learning 


the theory that Shakespeare knew no tongue but his 
own, and owed whatever knowledge he displayed of the 
Knowledge c l ass i cs an d of Italian and French literature 
of French to English translations. English translations 
and of foreign literature undoubtedly abounded 

Italian. j n Elizabethan literature. But Shakespeare 
was not wholly dependent on them. Several of the 
books in French or Italian, whence Shakespeare derived 
the plots of his dramas, were not in Elizabethan days 
rendered into English. Belleforest's Histoires Tragiques 
is the source of Hamlet's history. In Ser Giovanni's 
Italian collection of stories, called // Pecorone, alone 
may be found the full story of the Merchant of Venice. 
Cinthio's Hecatommithi alone supplies the tale of Othello. 
None of these foreign books were accessible in English 
translations when Shakespeare wrote. On more general 
grounds the theory of his ignorance is adequately con 
futed. A boy with Shakespeare's exceptional alertness 
of intellect, during whose school days a training in Latin 
classics lay within reach, would scarcely lack in future 
years the means of access to the literature of France and 
Italy which were written in cognate languages. 

With Latin and French and with the Latin poets of 
the school curriculum, Shakespeare in his early writings 
Latin and openly and unmistakably acknowledged his 
French acquaintance. In Henry V. the dialogue in 
quotations, many scenes is carried on in French which is 
grammatically accurate if not idiomatic. In the mouth 
of his schoolmasters, Holofernes in Lovers Labour's Lost 
and Sir Hugh Evans in The Merry Wives of Windsor, 
Shakespeare placed Latin phrases drawn directly from 
Lily's popular school grammar, and from the Sententiae 
Pueriles, the conversation book used by boys at school. 


The influence of a popular school author, the voluminous 
Latin poet Ovid, was especially apparent throughout 
his earliest literary work, both poetic and dramatic. 
Ovid's Metamorphoses was peculiarly familiar to him. 
Hints drawn directly from it are discernible in all his 
early poems and plays as well as in The Tempest, his 
latest play (v. i. 33 sef.). Ovid's Latin, which was ac 
cessible to Shakespeare since his school days, never 
faded altogether from his memory. 

We have, however, to emphasise at every turn the 
obvious fact that Shakespeare was no finished scholar 
and no expert in any language but his own. L^ O f 
He makes, in classical subjects, those mis- scholar- 
takes which are impossible in a scholar. sh >P- 
Homer's 'YTre/otW, a name of the sun, which Ovid ex 
actly reproduces as Hyperion, figures in Shakespeare's 
pages (and indeed in those of many of his more learned 
contemporaries) as Hyperion ' Hyperion to a satyr ' 
with every one of the four syllables wrongly measured. 
The wholesale error in quantity is patent to any classical 
scholar, and Keats's submissive repetition of it is clear 
evidence that, despite his intuitive grasp of the classical 
spirit, he had no linguistic knowledge of Greek. Again, 
Shakespeare's closest adaptations of Ovid's Meta 
morphoses, despite his knowledge of Latin, reflect the 
tautological phraseology of the popular English version 
by Arthur Golding, of which seven editions were issued 
in Shakespeare's lifetime. From Plautus, Shakespeare 
drew the plot of The Comedy of Errors, but there is 
reason to believe that Shakespeare consulted an English 
version as well as the original text. Like many later 
students of Latin, he did not disdain the use of trans 
lations when they weie ready to his hand. Shakespeare's 


lack of exact scholarship explains the ' small Latin and 
less Greek ' with which he was credited by his scholarly 
friend Ben Jonson. But the report of his early biog 
rapher, Aubrey, 'that Shakespeare understood Latin 
pretty well,' need not be contested. His knowledge of 
French in early life may be estimated to have equalled 
his knowledge of Latin, while he probably had quite 
sufficient acquaintance with Italian to enable him to 
discern the drift of any Italian poem or novel that 
reached his hand. 

There is no evidence that Shakespeare was a widely 
travelled man. It is improbable that he completed his 
Shake- ear ty education in a foreign tour, and that 
speare no he came under foreign literary influences at 
traveller their fountain-heads, in the places of their 
abroad. origin. Young Elizabethans of rank com 
monly made a foreign tour before completing their edu 
cation, but Shakespeare was not a young man of rank. 
It was indeed no uncommon experience for men of 
the humbler classes to work off some of the exuberance 
of youth by 'trailing a pike' in foreign lands, serving 
as volunteers with foreign armies. From the neighbour 
hood of Stratford itself when Shakespeare was just of 
age many youths of his own years crossed to the Low 
Countries. They went to Holland to fight the Spaniards 
under the command of the great Lord of Warwickshire, 
the owner of Kenilworth, the Queen's favourite, the 
Earl of Leicester. A book was once written to show 
that one of these adventurous volunteers, who bore the 
name of Will Shakespeare, was Shakespeare himself, but 


the identification is a mistake. William Shakespeare, 
the Earl of Leicester's soldier, came from a village in 
the neighbourhood of Stratford where the name was com 
mon. He was not the dramatist. 

Some have argued that in his professional capacity 
of actor Shakespeare went abroad. English actors in 
Shakespeare's day occasionally combined to make pro 
fessional tours through foreign lands where court society 
invariably gave them a hospitable reception. In Den 
mark, Germany, Austria, Holland, and France, many 
dramatic performances were given before royal audiences 
by English actors throughout Shakespeare's active career. 
But it is improbable that Shakespeare joined any of these 
expeditions. Actors of small account at home mainly 
took part in them, and Shakespeare quickly filled a 
leading place in the theatrical profession. Lists of those 
Englishmen who paid professional visits abroad are ex 
tant, and Shakespeare's name occurs in none of them. 

It seems unlikely that Shakespeare ever set foot on 
the Continent of Europe in either a private views of 
or professional capacity. He doubtless would foreign 
have set foot there if he could have done so, travel, 
but the opportunity did not offer. He knew the dangers 
of insular prejudice : 

' Hath Britain all the sun that shines ? Day, night, 
Are they not but in Britain ? . . . prithee, think 
There's livers out of Britain.' 

He acknowledged the educational value of foreign 
travel when rightly indulged in. He points out in one 
of his earliest plays how wise fathers 

' Put forth their sons, to seek preferment out, 
Some to the wars to try their fortune there ; 


Some to discover islands far away ; 

Some to the studious universities [on the Continent] ; ' 

how the man who spent all his time at home was at a 

' In having known no travaile in his youth.' 

' A perfect man ' was one who was ' tried and tutored in 
the world ' outside his native country. 

' Home-keeping youth have ever homely wits.' 

Some touch of a counsel of perfection may be latent 
in these passages. Elsewhere Shakespeare betrayed the 
stay-at-home's impatience of immoderate enthusiasm for 
foreign sights and customs. He denounced with severity 
the uncontrolled passion for travel. He scorned the 
travelled Englishman's affectations, his laudation of 
foreign manners, his exaggerated admiration of foreign 
products as compared with home-products : 

' Farewell, monsieur traveller,' says Rosalind to the melancholy 
Jaques. ' Look you lisp and wear strange suits and disable all 
the benefits of your own country, and be out of love with your 
nativity, and almost chide God for making you that countenance 
you are, or I will scarce think you have swam in a gondola.' 

But many who reject theories of Shakespeare's visits 
to France or Germany or Flanders are unwilling to forgo 
Imagina- the conjecture that Shakespeare had been 
tive affinity in Italy. To Italy especially to cities of 
with Italy. Northern Italy, like Venice, Padua, Verona, 
Mantua, and Milan Shakespeare makes frequent and 
familiar reference, and he supplies many a realistic por 
trayal of Italian life and sentiment. But the fact that 


he represents Valentine in The Two Gentlemen (i. i. 71) 
as travelling from Verona to Milan (both inland cities) 
by sea, and the fact that Prospero in The Tempest em 
barks in a ship at the gates of Milan (i. ii. 129-144) 
renders it almost impossible that he could have gathered 
his knowledge of Northern Italy from personal observa 
tion. Shakespeare doubtless owed all his knowledge of 
Italy to the verbal reports of travelled friends and to 
Italian books, the contents of which he had a rare power 
of assimilating and vitalising. The glowing light which 
his quick imagination shed on Italian scenes lacked the 
literal precision and detailed accuracy with which first 
hand exploration must have endowed it. 


The only safe source of information about Shake 
speare's actual knowledge in his adult years either of 
the world of literature or of the world of men i nterna i 
is his extant written work. It is a more evidences 
satisfying source than any conjectures of his of foreign 
personal experiences. What are the general i nfluen ce. 
tracts of foreign knowledge, what are the spheres of 
foreign influence with which Shakespeare's work his 
plays and poems prove him to have been familiar? 
It is quite permissible to reply to such questions with 
out further detailed consideration of the precise avenues 
through which those tracts of knowledge were in Shake 
speare's day approachable. With how many of the 
topics or conceptions of great foreign literature does the 
internal evidence of his work show him to have been 
acquainted ? 


Firstly, it is obvious that the tales and personages of 
classical mythology the subject-matter of classical 
References P oetr y were among his household words, 
to the words. When the second servant in The 

Greek Taming of the Shrew asks the drunken Kit 

mythology, sly : ' Dost thou love pictures?' Shake 
speare conjures up stories of classical folk-lore with such 
fluent ease as to imply complete familiarity with most of 
the conventional themes of classical poetry. ' Dost thou 
love pictures ? ' says the servant. He answers his own 
question thus : 

' Then we will fetch thee straight 
Adonis painted by a running brook, 
And Cytherea all in sedges hid, 

Lord. We'll show thee lo as she was a maid, 

yd Serv. Or Daphne roaming through a thorny wood, 

Scratching her legs that one shall swear she bleeds, 
And at that sight shall sad Apollo weep.' 

All that it was of value for Shakespeare to know of 
Adonis, Cytherea, lo, Daphne, Apollo, flowed in the 
current of his thought. Without knowledge of Greek 
he assimilated the pellucid fancy and imagery that played 
"about Greek verse. The Greek language was unknown 
to him. But he comprehended the artistic significance 
of Greek mythology, of which Greek poetry was woven, 
as effectively as the learned poets of the Italian and 
French Renaissance. 

So, too, with the general trend and leading episodes 
of Greek history. Greek tradition, both in mythical 
and in historic times, was as open a book to him as 
Greek poetic mythology. He had not studied Greek 


history in the spirit of an historical scholar. Troilus and 
Cressida indicates no critical study of the authorities for 
the Trojan War, but the play leaves no doubt Mythical 
of Shakespeare's intuitive grasp of the lead- history of 
ing features and details of the whole story of Greece. 
Troy as it was known to his contemporaries. In Athens 
the capital city of Greece, the main home of Greek 
culture he places the scene of more than one of his 
plays. The names of Greek heroes from Agamemnon, 
Ulysses, Nestor, and Theseus, to Alcibiades and Pericles, 
figure in his dramatis persona. The names are often 
so employed as to suggest little or nothing of the true 
historic significance attaching to them, but their presence 
links Shakespeare with the interest in Greek achieve 
ment which was a corner-stone of the Renaissance. 
The use to which he put Greek nomenclature is an 
involuntary act of homage to 'the glory that was 

' The grandeur that was Rome ' made, however, more 
abundant appeal to Shakespeare. The history of Rome 
in its great outlines and its great episodes 
clearly fascinated him as deeply as it fasci- 
nated any of the leaders of the Renaissance. 
The subject in one shape or another was always inviting 
his thought and pen. His chief narrative poem Lucrece 
one of his first efforts in literature treats with 
exuberant eagerness of a legend of an early period in 
Roman history of regal Rome. When Shakespeare's 
dramatic powers were at their maturity he sought with 
concentrated strength and insight dramatic material in 
the history of Rome at her zenith, as it was revealed in 
the pages of the Greek biographer Plutarch. No lover 
of Shakespeare would complain if the final judgment to 


be pronounced on his work were based on his three 
Roman tragedies : the austere Coriolanus, with its single 
but unflaggingly sustained dramatic interest, the scene 
of which is laid in the early days of the Roman Republic; 
the tragedy oi Julius Ccesar, a penetrating political study 
of the latest phase of the Roman Republic, and the 
tragedy of Antony and Cleopatra, a magical presentment 
and interpretation of an episode in the early history of 
the Roman Empire. To Shakespeare's mind, any 
survey of human endeavour, from which was excluded 
the experience of Rome with her 'conquests, glories, 
triumphs, spoils,' would have ' shrunk to little measure.' 
Of Shakespeare's acquaintance with the literature of 
Rome as represented by Ovid, the proofs are too numer 
ous and familiar to need rehearsal. But there are more 
recondite signs that he had come under the spell of the 
greatest of Latin poems, the sEneid of that poet Virgil, 
to whom he was likened in his epitaph. 'One speech 
in it I chiefly loved,' said Hamlet : ' 'twas Eneas' tale 
to Dido ; and thereabout of it especially, where he 
speaks of Priam's slaughter.' Shakespeare recalls the 
same Virgilian story in his beautiful and tender lines : 

' In such a night 

Stood Dido with a willow in her hand 
Upon the wild sea banks, and waft her love 
To come again to Carthage. ' 

Not Roman poetry only, but also Roman drama, fell 
within the scope of Shakespeare's observation. The 
humours of Plautus are reproduced with much fidelity 
in The Comedy of Errors. 

If we leave classical history and literature for the 
foreign literatures that were more nearly contemporary 


with Shakespeare, evidence of devotion to one of the 
greatest and most prolonged series of foreign literary 
efforts crowds upon us. With Italy the Italy Italian his- 
of the Renaissance his writings show him tory and 
to have been in full sympathy through the literature, 
whole range of his career. The name of every city of 
modern Italy which had contributed anything to the 
enlightenment of modern Europe finds repeated mention 
in his plays. Florence and Padua, Milan and Mantua, 
Venice and Verona are the most familiar scenes of 
Shakespearean drama. To many Italian cities or dis 
tricts definite characteristics that are perfectly accurate 
are allotted. Padua, with its famous university, is called 
the nursery of the arts ; Pisa is renowned for the gravity 
of its citizens ; Lombardy is the pleasant garden of 
great Italy. The mystery of Venetian waterways ex 
cited Shakespeare's curiosity. The Italian word 'tra- 
ghetto/ which is reserved in Venice for the anchorage 
of gondolas, Shakespeare transferred to his pages 
under the slightly disguised and unique form of 
' traject.' 

In the early period of his career Shakespeare's disciple- 
ship to Italian influences was perhaps most conspicuous. 
In his first great experiment in tragedy, his Romeo and 
Juliet, he handled a story wholly of Italian origin and 
identified himself with the theme with a completeness 
that admits no doubt of his affinity with Italian feeling. 
That was the earliest of his plays in which he proved 
himself the possessor of a poetic and dramatic instinct 
of unprecedented quality. But Italian influences and 
signs of sympathy with the spirit of Italy mark every 
stage of his work. They dominate the main plot of the 
maturest of his comedies, Mi4ch Ado about Nothing; 


they colour one of his latest works, his serious romantic 
play of Cymbelinc. 

The Italian novel is one of the most characteristic 
forms of Italian literature, and the Italian novel con 
stituted the main field whence Shakespeare 

e I a 1 derived his plots. Apart from Love's Laboitr's 
Lost and A Midsummer Nighfs Dream, the 
plots of which, while compounded of many borrowed 
simples, are largely of Shakespeare's own invention, 
apart, too, from The Comedy of Errors, which was 
adapted from Plautus, there is no comedy by Shake 
speare of which the fable does not owe something to an 
Italian novel. The story of All's Well that End's Well, 
and the Imogen story of Cymbeline, are of the invention 
of Boccaccio of Boccaccio the master-genius of the 
Italian novelists. Much Ado about Nothing and Tivelfth 
Night come from Bandello, the chief of Boccaccio's 
disciples, and Measure for Measure is from Cinthio, a 
later disciple of Boccaccio, almost Shakespeare's con 
temporary. The Two Gentlemen of Verona, although 
based on a Spanish pastoral romance, derives hints from 
the Italian of both Bandello and Cinthio. 

How far Shakespeare had direct recourse to Boccaccio, 
Bandello, and Cinthio is an open question. The chief 
Means of Italian novels were diffused in translations 
access to and adaptations throughout Europe. The 
the Italian WO rk of Bandello, who enjoyed, of all Italian 
novel. novelists, the highest popularity in the six 

teenth century, was constantly reappearing in Italian, 
French, and English shapes, which rendered easy the 
study of his tales in the absence of access to the original 
version. Shakespeare readily identified himself with 
the most popular literary currents of his epoch, and 


worked with zest on Bandello's most widely disseminated 
stories. Before he wrote Much Ado about Nothing, the 
story by Bandello, which it embodies, had experienced 
at least four adaptations; it had been translated into 
French ; it had been retold in Italian by Ariosto in his 
epic of Orlando Furioso ; it had been dramatised in 
English by one student of Ariosto, and had been trans 
lated into English out of the great Italian poet by 
another (Sir John Harington). Similarly, Bandello's 
tale, which gave Shakespeare his cue for Twelfth Night, 
had first been rendered into French ; it was then trans 
lated from French into English; it was afterwards 
adapted anew in English prose from the Italian ; it was 
dramatised in Italian by three dramatists independently, 
and two of these Italian dramas had been translated into 
French. Shakespeare's play of Twelfth Night was at 
least the ninth version which Bandello's fable had under 

There are two plays of Shakespeare which compel us 
in the present state of our knowledge to the conclusion 
that Shakespeare had recourse to the Italian ot&el/o&nd 
itself. The story of Othello as far as we Merchant 
know was solely accessible to him in the f Venice. 
Italian novel of Cinthio. Many of Cinthio's stories had 
been translated into English; many more had been 
translated into French, but there is no rendering into 
either French or English of Othello's tragical history. 
Again in the Merchant of Venice we trace the direct 
influence of // Pecorone, a fourteenth-century collection 
of Italian novels by Ser Giovanni Fiorentino ; that col 
lection remained unpublished till 1558, and was in 
Shakespeare's day alone to be found in the Italian 
original. The bare story of the Jew and the pound of 


flesh was very generally accessible. But it is only in 
Shakespeare's play and in // Pecoronc that the defaulting 
Christian debtor, whose pound of flesh is demanded by 
his Jewish creditor, is rescued through the advocacy of 
' The Lady of Belmont,' wife of the Christian debtor's 
friend. The management of the plot in the Italian 
novel is indeed more closely followed by Shakespeare 
than was his ordinary habit. 

The Italian fable, it is to be admitted, merely formed 
as a rule the basis of his structure. Having surveyed all 
Shake- ^ ts possibilities, he altered and transmuted the 
speare's story with the utmost freedom as his artistic 
radical spirit moved him. His changes bear weighty 
methods of testimony to the greatness of his conceptions 
alteration. Qf both Ufe and literature In Measure for 

Measure, by diverting the course of an Italian novel at a 
critical point he not merely showed his artistic ingenuity 
but gave dramatic dignity and unusual elevation to a 
degraded and repellent theme. Again, in Othello^ the 
tragic purpose is planned by him anew. The scales 
never fall from Othello's eyes in the Italian novel. He 
dies in the belief that his wife is guilty. Shakespeare's 
catastrophe is invested with new and fearful intensity by 
making lago's cruel treachery known to Othello at the 
last, after lago's perfidy has compelled the noble-hearted 
Moor in his groundless jealousy to murder his gentle 
and innocent wife Desdemona. Too late Othello sees 
in Shakespeare's tragedy that he is the dupe of lago 
and that his wife is guiltless. But, despite the magni 
ficent freedom with which Shakespeare often handled 
the Italian novel, it is to the suggestion of that form of 
Italian literary art that his dramatic achievements owe a 
profound and extended debt. 


Not that in the field of Italian literature, Shakespeare's 
debt was wholly confined to the novel. Italian lyric 
poetry left its impress on the most inspiring 
of Shakespeare's lyric flights. Every son- 
netteer of Western Europe acknowledged Petrarch (of 
the fourteenth century) to be his master, and from. 
Petrarchan inspiration came the form and much of the 
spirit of Shakespeare's sonnets. Petrarch's ambition to 
exalt in the sonnet the ideal type of beauty, and to 
glorify ethereal sentiment, is the final cause of Shake 
speare's contributions to sonnet-literature. At first 
hand Shakespeare may have known little or even noth 
ing of the Italian's poetry which he once described with 
a touch of scorn as ' the numbers that Petrarch flowed 
in.' But English and French contemporary adaptations 
of Petrarch's ideas and phrases were abundant enough 
to relieve Shakespeare of the necessity of personal 
recourse to the original text while the Petrarchan in 
fluence was ensnaring him. The cultured air of Eliza 
bethan England was charged with Petrarchan conceits 
and imagery. Critics may differ as to the precise 
texture or dimensions of the bonds which unite the two 
poets, but they cannot question their existence. 

Nor was Shakespeare wholly ignorant of another 
mode in which Italian imaginative power manifested 
itself. He was not wholly ignorant of Italian Italian 
art. In The Winter's Tale he speaks of a 
contemporary Italian artist, Giulio Romano, with singular 
enthusiasm. He describes the supposed statue of 
Hermione as ' performed by that rare Italian master, 
Giulio Romano, who, had he himself eternity and could 
put breath into his work, would beguile Nature of her 
custom, so perfectly is he her ape.' No loftier praise 


could be bestowed on a worker in the plastic arts. 
Giulio Romano is better known as a painter than a 
sculptor, but sculpture occupied him as well as painting 
in early life, and although Michael Angelo's name might 
perhaps have been more appropriate and obvious, Shake 
speare was guilty of no inaccuracy in associating with 
Romano's name the surpassing qualities of Italian 
Renaissance sculpture. 


Of the great foreign authors who, outside Italy, were 
more or less contemporary with the Elizabethans, those 

of France loom large in the Shakespearean 
France ar ena. No Elizabethan disdained the close 

study of sixteenth-century literature of France. 
Elizabethan poetry finally ripened in the light of the 
lyric effort of Ronsard and his fellow-masters of the 
Ple'iade School. Ronsard and his friends, Du Bellay 
and De Bai'f, had shortly before Shakespeare's birth 
deliberately set themselves the task of refining their 
country's poetry by imitating in French the classical 
form aad spirit Their design met with rare success. 
They brought into being a mass of French verse which 
is comparable by virtue of its delicate imagery and 
simple harmonies with the best specimens of the Greek 
anthology. It was under the banner of the Pleiade 
chieftains and as translators of poems by one or other 
of their retainers, that Spenser and Daniel, Lodge and 
Chapman, set forth on their literary careers. Shake 
speare could not escape altogether from the toils of this 
active influence. It was Ronsard 's example which 
introduced into Elizabethan poetry the classical conceit, 


which Shakespeare turned to magnificent advantage in 
his sonnets, that the poet's verses are immortal and can 
alone give immortality to those whom he commemorates. 
Insistence on the futility of loveless beauty which lives 
for itself alone, adulation of a patron in terms of affec 
tion which are borrowed from the vocabulary of love, 
expressions of fear that a patron's favour may be alien 
ated by rival interests, were characteristic motives of the 
odes and sonnets of the Pleiade, and, though they came 
to France from Italy, they seem to have first caught 
Shakespeare's ear in their French guise. 

When Shakespeare in his Sonnets (No. xliv.) reflects 
with vivid precision on the nimbleness of thought which 

' can jump both sea and land 
As soon as think the place where he would be,' 

he seems to repeat a note that the French sonnetteers 
constantly sounded without much individual variation. 
It is difficult to believe that Shakespeare's description of 
Thought's triumphs over space, and its power of leaping 
' large lengths of miles,' did not directly echo Du Bellay's 
apostrophe to Tenser volage,' or the address of Du 
Bellay's disciple Amadis Jamyn to 

' Penser, qui peux en un moment grand erre 
Courir leger tout 1'espace des cieux, 
Toute la terre, et les flots spacieux, 
Qui peux aussi penetrer sous la terre.' * 

** Sonnets to Thought are especially abundant in the poetry of 
sixteenth-century France, though they are met with in Italy. The 
reader may be interested in comparing in detail Shakespeare's 
Sonnet xliv. with the two French sonnets to which reference is 
made in the text. The first sonnet runs : 


But Shakespeare's interest in French literature was 
not confined to the pleasant and placid art or the light 
ethereal philosophy of Ronsard's school. The burly 

1 Penser volage, et leger comme vent, 

Qui or' au ciel, or' en mer, or' en terre 
En un moment cours et recours grand' erre, 
Voire au seiour des ombres bien souvent. 

En quelque part que voises t'eslevant 
Ou rabaissant, celle qui me fait guerre, 
Celle beaute tousiours deuant toy erre, 
Et tu la vas d'un leger pied suyvant. 

Pourquoy suis tu (6 penser trop peu sage) 
Ce qui te nuit ? pourquoy vas-tu sans guide, 
Par ce chemin plain d'erreur variable ? 

Si de parler au moins eusses 1'usage, 
Tu me rendrois de tant de peine vuide, 
Toy en repos et elle pitoyable. ' 

(Du BELLAY, Olive xliii.) 
The second sonnet runs : 

' Penser, qui peux en vn moment grand erre 
Courir leger tout 1'espace des cieux, 
Toute la terre, et les floU spacieux, 
Qui peux aussi penetrer sous la terre : 

Par toy souvent celle-la qui m'enferre 
De mille traits cuisans et furieux, 
Se represente au devant de mes yeux, 
Me menafant d'vne bien longue guerre 

Que tu es vain, puis-que ie ne S9aurois 
T'accompagnant aller ou ie voudrois, 
Et discourir mes douleurs a ma Dame ! 

Las ! que n'as tu Ie parler comme moy, 
Pour lui center Ie feu de mon esmoy, 
Et lui ietter dessous Ie sein ma flame ? ' 

(AMADIS JAMYN, Sonnet xxi.) 

Tasso's" sonnet (Venice 1583, ,i. p. 33) beginning : ' Come 
s'human pensier di giunger tenta Al luogo,' and Ronsard's sonnet 
{Amours, I. clxviii. ) beginning : ' Ce fol penser, pour s'envoler 
trop haut,' should also be studied in this connection. 


humorist Rabelais, who was older than Ronsard by a 
generation, and proved the strongest personality in the 
whole era of the French Renaissance, clearly Rabelais 
came within the limits of Shakespeare's cog- and 
nisance. The younger French writer, Mon- Montaigne, 
taigne, who was living during Shakespeare's first thirty- 
eight years of life, was no less familiar to the English 
dramatist as author of the least embarrassed and most 
suggestive reflections on human life which any auto 
biographical essayist has produced. From Montaigne, 
the typical child of the mature Renaissance in France, 
Shakespeare borrowed almost verbatim Gonzalo's de 
scription in The Tempest of an ideal socialistic common 


This brief survey justifies the conclusion that an 
almost limitless tract of foreign literature lent light and 
heat to Shakespeare's intellect and imagina- Alertness in 
tion. He may not have come to close acquiring 
quarters with much of it. Little of it did he foreign 
investigate minutely. But he perceived and knowled g e - 
absorbed its form and pressure at the lightning pace 
which his intuitive faculty alone could master. We may 
apply to him his own words in his description of the 
training of his hero Posthumus, in Cymbeline. He had 
at command 

' . . . All the learnings that his time 
Could make him the receiver of; which he took, 
As we do air, fast as 'twas ministered, 
And in's spring became a harvest.' 

The world was Shakespeare's oyster which he with 


pen could open. The mere geographical aspect of 
his dramas proves his width of outlook beyond English 
The geo- boundaries. In no less than twenty-six plays 
graphical of the whole thirty-seven are we transported 
point of for a space to foreign towns. In A Mid- 
view> summer Night's Dream, in Timon of Athens, 

Athens is our home, and so occasionally in Antony and 
Cleopatra. Ephesus was the scene of The Comedy of 
Errors and part of the play of Pericles. Messina, in 
Sicily, is presented in Much Ado about Nothing, as well 
as in Antony and Cleopatra, which also takes us to 
Alexandria, to a plain in Syria, and to Actium. Pericles 
introduces us to Antioch, Tarsus, Pentapolis, Mytilene, 
together with Ephesus ; Troilus and Cress ida to Troy ; 
and Othello to Cyprus. In no less than five plays the 
action passes in Rome. Not only is the ancient capital 
of the world the scene of the Roman plays Titus An- 
dronicus, Coriolanus, Julius Casar, and Antony and 
Cleopatra, but in Cymbeline much that is important te 
the plot is developed in the same surroundings. Of all 
the historic towns of Northern Italy can the like story 
be told. Hardly any European country is entirely 
omitted from Shakespeare's map of the world. The 
Winter's Tale takes us to Sicily and Bohemia ; Twelfth 
Night to an unnamed city in Illyria ; Hamlet to Elsinore 
in Denmark ; Measure for Measure to Vienna, and 
Love's Labour's Lost to Navarre. 

Shakespeare's plays teach much of the geography of 
Europe. But none must place unchecked reliance on 
Geo- the geographical details which Shakespeare 

graphical supplies. The want of exact scholarship 
blunders. which is characteristic of Shakespeare's atti 
tude to literary study is especially noticeable in his 


geographical assertions. He places a scene in The 
Winters Tale in Bohemia ' in a desert country near the 
sea.' Unluckily Bohemia has no seaboard. Shake 
speare's looseness of statement is common to him and 
at least one contemporary. In this description of his 
Bohemian scene, Shakespeare followed the English 
novelist, Robert Greene, from whom he borrowed the 
plot of A Winters Tale. A fantastic endeavour has 
been made to justify the error by showing that Apulia, 
a province on the sea-coast of Italy, was sometimes called 
Bohemia. The only just deduction to be drawn from 
Shakespeare's bestowal of a sea-coast on Bohemia is 
that he declined with unscholarly indifference to submit 
himself to bonds of mere literal fact. 

Shakespeare's dramatic purpose was equally well 
served, whether his geographical information was correct 
or incorrect, and it was rarely that he attempted inde 
pendent verification. In his Roman plays he literally 
depended on North's popular translation of Plutarch's 
Lives. He was content to take North as his final 
authority, and wherever North erred Shakespeare erred 
with him. In matters of classical geography and topog 
raphy he consequently stumbled with great frequency, 
and quite impenitently. In Antony and Cleopatra 
Shakespeare includes Lydia among the Queen of Egypt's 
provinces or possessions. Lydia is a district in Asia 
Minor with which Cleopatra never had relation. Plu 
tarch wrote quite correctly that the district of Lybia in 
North Africa was for a time under the Queen of Egypt's 
sway. Shakespeare fell blindly into the error, caused 
by a misprint or misreading, of which no scholar ac 
quainted with classical geography was likely to be 


Again, in Julius Ccesar, there are many errors of like 
kind due to like causes to casual acts of carelessness 
on the part of the English translator, which Shakespeare 
adopted without scruple. Mark Antony in Shakespeare 
describes the gardens which Caesar bequeathed to the 
people of Rome as on this side of the Tiber on the 
same side as the Forum where the crowded streets and 
population left no room for gardens. Plutarch had 
correctly described the Tiber gardens as lying across 
the Tiber, on the opposite side to that where the Forum 
lay. A very simple mistake had been committed by 
North or his printers : ' on that side of the Tiber ' had 
been misread 'on this side.' But Shakespeare was 
oblivious of a confusion, which would be readily per 
ceived by one personally acquainted with Rome, or one 
who had studied Roman topography. 


But more interesting than the mere enumeration of 
details of Shakespeare's scenes or of the literature that 
he absorbed is it to consider in broad out- -j^e 
line how his knowledge of foreign literature foreign 
worked on his imagination, howfar itaffected spirit in 
his outlook on life. How far did Shakespeare Shakespeare, 
catch the distinctive characteristics of the inhabitants 
of foreign lands and cities who fill his stage? How 
much genuine foreign spirit did he breathe into the 
foreign names? Various answers have been given to 
this inquiry. There are schools of critics which deny 
to Shakespeare's foreign creations to the Roman char 
acters of Julius Ccesar^ or to the Italian characters of 


Romeo and Juliet and Othello any national or individual 
traits. All, we are told by some, are to the backbone 
Elizabethan Englishmen and Englishwomen. Others 
insist that they are universal types of human nature in 
which national idiosyncrasies have no definite place. 

Neither verdict is satisfactory. No one disputes that 
Shakespeare handled the universal features of humanity, 
the traits common to all mankind. On the surface the 
highest manifestations of the great passions ambition, 
jealousy, unrequited love are the same throughout the 
world and have no peculiarly national colour. But to 
the seeing eye, men and women, when yielding to emo 
tions that are universal, take something from the bent 
of their education, and from the tone of the climate and 
scenery that environs them. The temperament of the 
untutored savage differs from that of the civilised man ; 
the predominating mood of northern peoples differs from 
that of southern peoples. Shakespeare was far too 
enlightened a student of human nature, whether he met 
men or women in life or literature, to ignore such facts 
as these. His study of foreign literature especially 
brought them home to him, and gave him opportunities 
of realising the distinctions in human character that 
are due to race or climate. Of this knowledge he took 
full advantage. Love-making is universal, but Shake 
speare recognised the diversities of amorous emotion 
and expression which race and climate engender. What 
contrast can be greater than the boisterous bluntness 
in which the English king, Henry v., gives expression to 
his love, and the pathetic ardour in which 
the young Italians Romeo and Ferdinand urge seM yj|ty 
their suits ? Intu itively, perhaps involuntarily, 
Shakespeare with his unrivalled sureness of insight 


impregnated his characters with such salient features of 
their national idiosyncrasies as made them true to the 
environment that was appointed for them in the work 
of fiction or history on which he founded his drama. 
As the poet read old novels and old chronicles, his 
dramatic genius stirred in him a rare force of historic 
imagination and sensibility. Study developed in Shake 
speare an historic sense of a surer quality than that with 
which any professed historian has yet been gifted. 
Caesar and Brutus, of whom Shakespeare learned all he 
knew in the pages of Plutarch, are more alive in the 
drama of Julius Casar than in the pages of the historian 
Mommsen. Cleopatra is the historic queen of Egypt, 
and no living portrait of her is known outside Shake 
speare. No errors in detail destroy the historic vrai- 
semblance of Shakespeare's dramatic pictures. 

The word ' atmosphere ' is hackneyed in the critical 
jargon of the day. Yet the term has graphic value. 
Fidelity Shakespeare apprehended the true environ-* 
to ' atmos- ment of the heroes and heroines to whom his 
phere.' reading of history or romance introduced 
him, because no writer had a keener, quicker sense of 
atmosphere than he. The comedies and tragedies, of 
which the scene is laid in Southern Europe, in Italy or 
Greece or Egypt, are all instinct with the hot passion, 
the gaiety, the quick jest, the crafty intrigue, which 
breathe the warm air, the brilliant sunshine, the deep 
shadows, the long days of Southern skies. 

The great series of the English history plays, with the 
bourgeois supplement of The Merry Wives, is, like the 
dramas of British legend, Macbeth and King Lear and 
Cymbeline^ mainly confined to English or British scenery. 
Apart from them, only one Shakespearean play carries 


the reader to a northern clime, or touches northern his 
tory. The rest take him to the south and introduce 
him to southern lands. The one northern play is 
Hamlet, The introspective melancholy that infects not 
the hero only, but his uncle, and to a smaller extent his 
friend Horatio and his mother, is almost peculiar to 
them in the range of Shakespearean humanity ; it bears 
slender relation to Jaques's cynical weariness of the 
world, or to Richard ii.'s self-recriminatory sadness; it 
belongs to the type of mind which is reared in a land of 
mists and long nights, of leaden skies and cloud-darkened 
days. Such are the distinguishing features of the northern 
Danish climate. Shakespeare's historic sense would 
never have allowed him to give Hamlet a local habita 
tion in Naples or Messina, any more than it would have 
suffered him to represent Juliet or Othello as natives 
of Copenhagen or London. 

Another point is worth remarking. Shakespeare took 
a very wide view of human history, and few of the condi 
tions that moulded human character escaped width of 
his notice. His historic insight taught him historic 
that civilisation progressed in various parts of outlook, 
the world at various rates. He could interpret human 
feeling and aspirations at any stage of development in 
the scale of civilisation. Under the spur of speculation, 
which was offered by the discovery of America, barbar 
ism interested him hardly less than civilisation. Caliban 
is one of his greatest conceptions. In Caliban he paints 
an imaginary portrait conceived with the utmost vigour 
and vividness of the aboriginal savage of the new world, 
of which he had heard from travellers or read in books 
of travel. Caliban hovers on the lowest limits of civilisa 
tion. His portrait is an attempt to depict human nature 


when just on the verge of the evolution of moral senti 
ment and intellectual culture. 

Shakespeare was no less attracted by the opposite 
extreme in the scale of civilisation. He loved to observe 
civilisation that was over-ripe, that had overleaped itself, 
and was descending on the other side to effeteness and 
ruin. This type Shakespeare slightly sketched at the 
outset in his portrait of the Spanish Armado in Love's 
Labour's Lost, but the painting of it only engaged his full 
strength, when he turned in later life to Egypt Queen 
Cleopatra, the ' serpent of old Nile,' who by her time- 
honoured magic brings ' experience, manhood, honour ' 
to dotage, is Shakespeare's supreme contribution to the 
study of civilised humanity's decline and fall. 

But it was the thought and emotion that animated 
the living stage of his own epoch which mainly engaged 
Shake- Shakespeare's pencil. He cared not whether 
speare's his themes and scenes belonged to England 
relation to O r to foreign countries. The sentiments and 
his era. aspirations which filled the air of his era were 
part of his being, and to them he gave the crowning 

Elizabethan literature, which was the noblest manifes- 
Elizabethan ^ticn in England of the Renaissance, reached 
literature its apotheosis in Shakespeare. It had ab- 
and the sorbed all the sustenance of the new move- 
Renais- ment the enthusiasm for theGreek andLatin 
classics, the passion for extending the limits 
of human knowledge, the resolve to make the best and 


not the worst of life upon earth, the ambition to cultivate 
the idea of beauty, the conviction that man's reason was 
given him by God to use without restraint. All these 
new sentiments went to the formation of Shakespeare's 
work, and found there perfect definition. The watch 
word of the mighty movement was sounded in his 
familiar lines : 

' Sure, He that made us with such large discourse, 
Looking before and after, gave us not 
The capability and god-like reason, 
To fust in us unused. 1 

Upon the new faith of the Renaissance in the perfec 
tibility of man, intellectually, morally, and physically, 
Shakespeare pronounced the final word in his deathless 
phrases : ' What a piece of work is man ! How noble 
in reason ! how infinite in faculties ! in form and moving, 
how express and admirable ! in action, how like an 
angel ! In apprehension, how like a god ! ' Renais 
sance authors of France, Italy, and Spain expressed 
themselves to like intent. But probably in these words 
of Shakespeare is enshrined with best effect the true 
significance of the new enlightenment. 

Shakespeare's lot was cast, by the silent forces of the 
universe, in the full current of this movement of the 
Renaissance which was in his lifetime still shake- 
active in every country of Western Europe, speare's 
He was the contemporary of Tasso, Ariosto's foreign 
successor on the throne of Italian Renais- contem- 
sance poetry and its last occupant. Ronsard 
and the poets of the French Renaissance flourished in 
his youth. Montaigne, the glory of the French Renais 
sance, whose thought on man's potentialities ran very 


parallel with Shakespeare's, was very little his senior. 
Cervantes, the most illustrious figure in literature of the 
Spanish Renaissance, was his senior by only seventeen 
years, and died only ten days before him. All these 
men and their countless coadjutors and disciples were 
subject to many of the same influences as Shakespeare 
was. The results of their efforts often bear one to 
another not merely a general resemblance, but a specific 
likeness, which amazes the investigator. How many 
poets and dramatists of sixteenth-century Italy, France, 
and Spain, applied their energies to developing the 
identical plots, and the identical traditions of history as 
Shakespeare ? Almost all countries of Western Europe 
were producing at the same period, under the same 
incitement of the revival of learning, and the renewal of 
intellectual energy, tragedies of Julius Caesar, of Antony 
and Cleopatra, of Romeo and Juliet, and of Timon of 
Athens. All countries of Western Europe were produc 
ing sonnets and lyrics of identical pattern with unpre 
cedented fertility; all were producing prose histories 
and prose essays of the like type ; all were surveying the 
same problems of science and philosophy, and offering 
much the same solutions. 

The direct interchange, the direct borrowings are not 
the salient features of the situation. Less material in- 
The diffu- fluences than translation or plagiarism were 
sion of the at work ; allowance must be made for the 
spirit of the community of feeling among all literary arti- 
Renais- ficers of the day, for the looking backwards 
to classical literature, for the great common 
stock of philosophical sentiments and ideas to which at 
that epoch authors of all countries under the sway of the 
movement of the Renaissance had access independently. 


National and individual idiosyncrasies deeply coloured 
the varied literatures in which the spirit of the Renais 
sance was embodied. But that unique spirit is visible 
amid all the manifestations of national and individual 
genius and temperament. 

When we endeavour to define the foreign influences 
at work on Shakespeare's achievement, we should beware 
of assigning to the specific influence of any Misappre- 
individual foreign writers those characteristics hensions to 
which were really the property of the whole be guarded 
epoch, which belonged to the stores of a S ainst - 
thought independently at the disposal of every rational 
being who was capable at the period of assimilating 
them. Much has been made of the parallelisms of 
sentiment between Shakespeare and his French contem 
porary Montaigne, the most enlightened representative 
of the spirit of the Renaissance in France. Such 
parallelisms stand apart from that literal borrowing by 
Shakespeare of part of a speech in The Tempest from 
Montaigne's essay on 'cannibals.' The main resem 
blances in sentiment concern the two men's attitude to 
far-reaching questions of philosophy. But there is little 
justice in representing the one as a borrower from the 
other. Both gave voice in the same key to that demand 
of the humanists of the Renaissance for the freest pos 
sible employment of man's reasoning faculty. Shake 
speare and Montaigne were only two of many who were 
each, for the most part independently, interpreting in 
the light of his individual genius, and under the sway 
of the temperament of his nation, the highest principles 
of enlightenment and progress, of which the spirit of the 
time was parent. 

Direct foreign influences are obvious in Shakespeare ; 


they are abundant and varied j they compel investiga 
tion. But no study of them can throw true and trust 
worthy light on any corner of Shakespeare's work, unless 
we associate with ou : study a full recognition, not merely 
of the personal pre ninence of Shakespeare's genius 
and intuition, but al of the diffusion through Western 
Europe of the spirit .. the Renaissance. That was the 
broad basis on which the foundations of Shakespeare's 
mighty and unique achievement were laid. 







Life of Alexander Hamilton. 
From the Cape to Cairo. 
Making of Modern Egypt. 
Lord Russell of Killowen. 
Birrell's Selected Essays. 
Idylls of the Sea. 
Reminiscences of Sir Henry 

Simple Adventures of a 

The Golden Age. 
The Forest. 

Life of W. E. Gladstone. 
Wild Life in a Southern 


The Psalms in Human Life. 

Life of John Nicholson. 
The Great Boer War. 
Collections and Recollections. 
Scrambles Amongst the Alps. 
Collections and Recollections 

(Second Series). 
A Book about the Garden. 
Culture and Anarchy. 
Life of Frank Buckland. 
A Modern Utopia. 
With Kitchener to Khartum. 
Unveiling of Lhasa. 
Life of Lord Dufferin. 
Life of Dean Stanley. 

Astronomy for Amateurs. 

Dream Days. 

Round the World on a 


The Path to Rome. 
Life of Canon Ainger. 
Reminiscences of Lady 

Dorothy Nevill. 
A Social Departure. 
Letters and Recollections of 

Sir Walter Scott. 
Literature and Dogma. 
Sermons by the Rev. C. H. 

My Confidences. 
Sir Frank Lockwood. 
The Making of a Frontier. 
Life of General Gordon. 
Newbolt's Collected Poems. 
Pot-Pourri from a Surrey 


The Ring and the Book. 
The Alps from End to End. 
The English Constitution. 
In India. 
Life of Cobden. 
Life of Parnell. 
Havelock's March - 
Up from Slavery. 
Recollections of the R.ght 

Hon. Sir Algernon West. 

Others in Preparation,